What's Another Word For Pirate Treasure?|
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in
Sean Montgomery's LiveJournal:
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|Tuesday, October 1st, 2013|
Karen just messaged me. The police called, and Karen's mom was located alive and well on Manitoulin Island. She'll be home in a few days. Very strange.
|Thursday, December 27th, 2012|
1. What are you reading right now?
I have two books on my night stand: 'This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly', by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff; and 'Censored 2013: The Top Censored Stories and Media Analysis of 2011-2012', by Mickey Huff and Andy Roth. I started the first of those about three weeks ago and found it a bit dry, which allowed me to be quickly distracted by the latter (which I'm actively reading). 2. What did you last finish reading?
'Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt', by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco. A clever blend of Hedges' prose and Sacco's illustrations, it looks at capitalism's 'sacrifice zones' across the United States (including Camden New Jersey, and the coal mining operations of West Virginia). I recommend it.3. What will you read next?
Too many choices! Either 'The Untold History of the United States' by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, or 'The Energy of Slaves: Oil and The New Servitude' by Andrew Nikiforuk. I'll probably wind up jumping back and forth between them, as I often do with books.
|Thursday, November 15th, 2012|
|Dispatch From Cancún
Karen and I have been in Cancún Mexico since Sunday, and I'm finally getting around to saying something about that topic. Not that there's too much to report. The trip has been marked primarily by massive amounts of sloth, interspersed with periods of eating. Which is precisely what Karen and I both needed. Well, the sloth part, anyway.
This time around, I booked with Sunwing Vacations instead of Westjet, since it saved a couple of bucks. Unfortunately, the jet we were on was an older model with cramped, uncomfortable seating - which made the flight down feel longer than it was. On the plus side, they had a free in-flight meal (a serviceable pasta dish). Back on the negative side: the movie shown was 'The Magic Of Belle Isle'.
Next time, we're switching back to Westjet.
While waiting for the plane in Toronto, I was reminded of how the airport falls down in comparison with other big hubs (Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, even Charlotte). A ton of money was spent on the huge new terminal building, but the shopping and dining options are seriously lacking. We didn't have time for breakfast, and all that was available at the airport were muffins and bagels from Tim Hortons.
We were greeted by gorgeous weather, as expected. While we had to wait almost half an hour for our shuttle van to arrive, we didn't mind too much. The drive to the resort took us through the heart of Cancun's hotel district, and we passed the infamous Coco Bongo. I actually appreciate that our resort is out of the city. I prefer the quiet here.
As we arrived at the Excellence Playa Mujeres, and were greated by the customary cool towels, glasses of champagne, and scent of citronella candles in the lobby, I was curious to see what would happen at check-in. Would they recognize us as repeat customers? Would there be free upgrades offered? Alas, no. But we got the room we wanted. They'd booked us into a room near the central pool, but we asked for and got a swim-out by the spa instead - which we appreciate for...you guessed it...the quiet. After dropping our bags, we headed out to get a little snack: a basket of tasty nachos.
The following day, there was acknowledgement of our loyalty to the resort - the manager sent up a bottle of champagne, and a gift bag containing a ball cap, polo shirt and tote bag. Nice! One issue: Karen wanted the bag and cap, leaving me with the shirt...but it was a Medium size. I requested a Large, but was told that they didn't have any available. No biggie. There was also a selection of full-size liquor bottles in our room (no extra charge)...I don't remember that from last year.
The only real thinking we have to do down here is where to go for dinner each night. We started with the Mexican restaurant, which had refreshed its menu since last year. Previously, they had offered a selection of 'Tex-Mex' dishes, but those were scrapped in favour of more traditional offerings...a move I had no problem with. I can get Chimichangas at home anytime. I had some Yucatan style chicken, which was pretty good - but our order was a bit late coming out because we arrived at the same time as a big corporate group (From 'Medieval Times', I believe...which is a business partner with the company that owns the resort). We hustled back to the room so I could catch the Monday night shows on Strangeways radio, and I used room service to order some chocolate cake for dessert. Such luxury!
Tuesday, we returned to the French restaurant that we'd enjoyed last year. I feasted on quiche and filet mignon, with creme brule for dessert. Awww, yeah. And last night we tried their tapas restaurant, 'Flavour Market'. It was a pleasant surprise...some really delicious offerings. Alas, service was pretty slow there too...but hey, we're on vacation, so what's the rush - right? :)
Yesterday, I wandered over to the activity board to see what was going on, and decided to partake in the game of bingo going on by the pool. Instead of numbers, the caller was pulling flash cards with pictures of Mexican flora and fauna. Three rounds were played, with each one yielding a bigger prize bag. Winners were commanded to call out the phrase 'Bingo Bingo, papasito Edwinsito (the caller's name), in Cancun we shake it like a boom-boom-boom'. Players who said the phrase incorrectly were subjected to 'punishment': having to get up and dance in front of everyone. And I wound up winning the final round, which required a full bingo card. My prize was a polo shirt exactly like the one I won at music trivia last year...and a gift card for a free 'marine wellness' treatment at the spa! *That* was unexpected. I let Karen have it, and her appointment is at 4 p.m.
I do wish we had come down for 7 days instead of 5. While Karen and I miss the dogs, I'm really enjoying this downtime. Although I suspect if I stayed here for much longer I'd wind up weighing 300 lbs! I think we might try another resort next time. We *do* like it here, but I wouldn't mind investigating other options...maybe a place close to some Mayan ruins, so we'd actually get off our asses for a couple of hours.
While I know that I tend to be happier and more relaxed when I stick to a vacation 'media fast', I haven't been sticking to that this time. We've watched some CNN, and I've been browsing my usual circuit of depressing news websites. I have so far been successful at restraining myself from posting snarky comments on the Facebook walls of Jewish friends who are busy repeating Israeli propaganda about their latest bombardment of Gaza. And yes, I have also been unsuccessful at avoiding Facebook. But it's fun for me, so what the hell.
|Sunday, November 4th, 2012|
Last weekend, I attended the Moogfest festival in Asheville North Carolina for the second time - and now I'm finally getting around to writing about it!
This year's festival was spread over 2 days instead of 3, meaning that there were fewer acts on offer. They also announced the final lineup weeks later than last year, causing me to delay my commitment to go. But when the lineup came out...there was enough there to draw me in: Orbital, Thomas Dolby, Cold Cave, Trust, Bear in Heaven, Mouse On Mars, Richie Hawtin, Magnetic Fields. My friend Angela would be able drive up from Knoxville to see me again too. And this year there was an additional incentive: I'd also get to meet DJ Candy of Strangeways Radio, who lives in nearby Charlotte and who was committed to going. So the trip was booked, and off I went.
Last year, I opted to fly out of Buffalo New York, since it saved me a couple hundred on airfare...but this time the difference in price wasn't that huge. And it also means a two hour drive each way between home and the airport. So I just flew out of Toronto, and Karen was able to taxi me (Incidentally, if Kraftwerk ever signs on for the festival, Karen will probably come down with me...but for now, she doesn't feel passionate enough about the festival to let me spend the extra money on her). The trip down started uneventfully. I got off the first plane in Atlanta and checked the departure board, which indicated that my connection to Asheville was still on time. But by the time I transitted between terminal buildings, the situation had changed. Now, the flight was delayed...apparently for some mechanical problem (which is never reassuring). So, I had time to get some lunch and browse around the book store. I got a combo of chili and Chicken Waldorf sandwich at the Atlanta Bread Company, which is similar to Panera, and very good. Atlanta airport has WiFi, but it's not free....except outside of the Starbucks, where I was able to get a connection. I listened to the guy next to me trying to get put on the standby list for the next flight to Asheville - since all remaining flights for the day were fully booked. But in the end, it was okay...we took off, albeit over an hour late.
I'm not sure how many people fly into Asheville for Moogfest, but I didn't see any obvious attendees on my flight. Most seemed a little 'outside the demographic' (i.e. older).
Upon arrival in Asheville, I picked up my rental car. I'd asked for a compact, but they were all out of those so I got a free upgrade to a Dodge Avenger. And it was pretty okay to drive, I admit. More interior space than my car, that's for sure - and more power. But the V6 engine certainly loved gas. I barely drove the car over the two days that I had it, and it cost me $30 to refill before bringing it back in.
After checking in at the Holiday Inn, I plugged in my laptop and saw that Candy had just posted a picture on Facebook of her own room in Asheville. I texted her to let her know I was on my way downtown to meet her in line for our wristbands. She was no problem to find...we recognized each other right away. And she's totally the same as she comes across on the radio...friendly and laid back. While we were standing there chatting, I idly checked my pocket for my Moogfest ticket....and it was not to be found. I double checked, every pocket. But no. This was not a happy development. I knew I had it when I left the hotel, I'd made sure of that. So, I left Candy in line while I trotted back to the car to look for it. I feared that it might have fluttered out of my pocket during the inital walk over - and that if so it was surely gone, picked up by someone on the street. Thankfully though, it was in the car, right in the center console. Sigh of relief! Then I hustled back to the lineup as quick as I could (but not *that* quickly...Asheville has a lot of hills, and I am out of shape). Candy had just passed behind a barrier, so I could no longer just cut in beside her. Now, the old me would have sullenly walked to the back of the line and waited like a schmuck. But I walked up to the festival worker who was standing by the barrier, and he let me in. Yay!
After wristbands were obtained, it was time to grab dinner. Last year's performances started at 5:30, and I got by on stuff from the arena snack food counter. But this year everything was later, so we had time for something a little classier. I knew Candy was vegetarian, so I suggested an Indian restaurant not far away. And it was really good! I had the Butter Chicken (of course), and it had a pleasing level of spiciness. Alas, dinner conversation went a little long, so we were a bit late for the first band, Bear in Heaven. But really, I treat the festival as a musical buffet, but a series of main courses. I was content seeing partial sets, in exchange for seeing more bands. Bear In Heaven were really good, and I want to hear more by them now.
Candy and I had essentially the same preferences for bands to see that evening, so we were able to stick together the whole time. We spent the majority of the time at one venue, the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. Between sets we hung out in the lobby, having drinks and people-watching. Because Moogfest takes place at Halloween, many people dress in costume, and some are quite clever. One fellow was dressed in the 'tuxedo and eyeball head' outfit used by the band The Residents, and he wound up the winning the festivals' costume contest.
After Bear in Heaven was Miike Snow. I only knew a couple of songs by them, but enjoyed the set. They were much more energetic and flashy in presentation than I'd expected. I had an option at this point to go see Exitmusic, but I'd already seen them open for School of Seven Bells earlier this year, so I stayed put for Squarepusher instead. Thanks to epi_lj
, I knew to bring earplugs. But even with them, I found that a little Squarepusher goes a long way. Not just loud, but staccato and discordant. A light show which seemed cool at first but when started to feel like a non-stop camera flash going off in your face. So we left after 1/2 hour to go check out Blondes. They were pretty cool! Like Ford and Lopatin (who I saw last year at the same venue) it was just two guys with their DJ decks, triggering loops and samples...but they got some good grooves going. However, I was in the mood for sitting by this point. And Candy was in the mood for a snack. So we grabbed some fries in the pub under the concert hall. Afterwards, we headed back to the main concert venue to see Explosions in the Sky. But not before I poked by head in to see a bit of Richie Hawtin's set. I liked what I heard, but I only stayed long enough to hear one song and take a couple of pictures. Explosions in The Sky were fantastic, even though they're really not a band you'd picture being invited to Moogfest. After all, the festival was set up to honour the work of Bob Moog, pioneer of electronic music making...and here was EITS, with a drummer and a bunch of guitarists. But their uncompromising take on 'post rock' still makes them a welcome addition to the lineup. They play long instrumental pieces which are reminiscent of Robin Guthrie at times...so it is no surprise that they found a home on the Bella Union record label (founded by Guthrie and fellow Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde). Still, Candy and I were both seriously flagging by this point (almost 1:30), and we called it a day before the end of the set.
On Saturday morning, Candy and I met up for brunch at the Tupelo Honey cafe, a place I enjoyed when I visited last year. I had their house special: Sweet Potato Pancakes with Spiced Pecans and Peach Butter. And yep, it was de-lish. Then we parted ways. She headed downtown to check out some of the seminars being presented by the fesitval, and I went to an in-store CD signing by the band The Magnetic Fields. It was held at Harvest Records, a cool little store on the west side of town. While not large in total inventory, the stuff they have in stock is well curated. There was also a table devoted exclusively to artists playing at Moogfest, at reasonable prices. Four members of The Magnetic Fields showed up early, and wound up doing some CD shopping to kill time. Band leader/songwriter Stephin Merritt looked around and said 'it's the world's first all male record store'...and indeed the room was full of guys at that moment. But women did arrive, including the bands' 5th member, Claudia. They all assembled in the next room, and I got them to sign a copy of 'Love At The Bottom Of The Sea'. I didn't chat too much, aside from thanking them for doing the meet-n-greet.
Then it was time for a nap, before Angela arrived. By 5:30, it was time for us to head into town, and this time there was zero line-up for wristbands. We went to a Mellow Mushroom Pizza for dinner, which I thought was a local joint but which is actually a chain. On the way over, I texted Candy and invited her to join us - which she did. Pretty good pizza, I must say.
On this evening, my agenda and Candy's diverged a bit (Angela was happy to see whoever I suggested). She started with Divine Fits, while I took Angela to see Magnetic Fields. As I expected, it was the same setlist as when I saw them play earlier this year, so I didn't feel bad by leaving early. We headed off to see Cold Cave play at The Orange Peel, where we wound up re-connecting with Candy. And here again, the earplugs came in handy. Man, were they loud. But really good...so 80s. Was happy to hear 'Love Comes Close' and 'Underworld USA' played. But Angela and I snuck out before the last song, in order to get in line for Trust, another band with unapologetic 80s influences. Candy, who came later, had to wait in line and wound up missing some early drama. About three songs in, Trust lost all power to their stage gear. There was milling around for at least 5 minutes, during which time Angela and I considered taking off to see Thomas Dolby. The crowd was very patient though, and I'm glad we did stay, because it meant we got to see them do 'Candy Walls'. Still, I did want to catch a but of Dolby's performance, so we snuck out early again. Dolby was fun! We only saw three songs though (including Europa and the Pirate Twins, and Airhead), because it was time for my most anticipated show of the festival: Orbital. And they did not disappoint. Some bands annoy with an insistence on ignoring their popular older material...not these guys. They played Halcyon (complete with Belinda Carlisle's 'Heaven is a Place On Earth), Satan (a killer version of that), Lush, Chime, Belfast, the Doctor Who theme...along with a favourite from the new album, New France. The room was jumping. Well, maybe not Candy. She was clearly really tired, and had to bow out early. Angela and I stuck around, and then finished our evening with a lovely performance by Harold Budd and Keith Lowe. It was such a contrast to Orbital - hushed and delicate. Just Budd on piano and Lowe on upright bass (using a sampler to play multiple overlapping parts, the way Imogen Heap does when she sings live). I wish we could have seen the whole performance, but once again it was late and we had to bail.
And that was it for the music. One last thing before leaving town: brunch at the Moose Cafe with Angela. We arrived after they usually stop serving breakfast, but they humoured me, and I got the Farmer's Market special (eggs, ham, home fries, french toast). Not as awesome as Tupelo Honey, but still pretty good! Angela went on her way, and I got to kill an hour downtown, where I saw the Moogfest sign getting hauled away on a trailer. Pretty much all signs of the festival had been swept away, and Asheville was back to its usual self. It's a really town...in some ways, it reminds me of Kingston (where I went to University).
Flight back home was uneventful, and I got back in time to see Walking Dead. Sadly, I felt a bit like the walking dead at work on Monday morning, but that's another story.
|Sunday, October 7th, 2012|
Movie review time again! Last night, Karen and I went to see Frankenweenie with our friends Kyn and Steve. Kyn is a huge Nightmare Before Christmas fan, and she was really jonesing to see this one - which seemed like it could be a fun return to form for Tim Burton after a run of films I either felt 'meh' about (like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) or just wasn't interested in seeing at all (like Dark Shadows).
Well, it certainly was a return to form for him, in the sense that it rehashed some of his more familiar themes: a misunderstood loner, suburbia as a conformist nightmare, death, 50s monster movies (and, of course, a Danny Elfman score). Combine elements and stir until blended. What was missing for me was a clear purpose or coherent theme. I get that Burton loves the look of old horror movies, and an artist has to follow their passions. Frankenweenie replicates that look quite successfully, with lots of fun expressionistic cinematography and visual references for those knowledgeable about the genre (there was also a somewhat questionable nod to the the Godzilla series of movies, involving an Asian student). But I believe that good art has to offer more than just empty style...it has to communicate something. And so, what was the film trying to say? I saw two themes at play...and unfortunately, I felt that Burton dropped the ball on both: 1)Science as a metaphor for imagination, and 2) dealing with the death of loved ones.
1) Science used as a metaphor for imagination. The films' best character by far is the science teacher, modeled after Vincent Price and voiced by Martin Landau. In a memorable scene, he is called before a PTA meeting to answer charges that he is encouraging his students to carry out dangerous experiments. The teacher accuses the adults in the audience of being 'stupid' and afraid of science...whereas the children (whose minds are still open) embrace it. However, the 'science' in question involves bringing dead pets back to life with electricity. Anyone with some basic life experience will know that this is not science, and it doesn't work....it's not a failure of imagination. There's also an idea introduced that the results of an experiment depend on whether you 'love' said experiment...that somehow your emotional state influences your results. It is a somewhat odd - even inappropriate - message in a film aimed at kids.
2) Letting go of loved ones when they die. The films' protagonist isn't trying to play God the way that the Victor Frankenstein of Mary Shelley's novel was...he just wants his dog back, and finds a way to do it. But then we never really deal with the repercussions. Does the dog feel pain at having been made conscious after being stitched back together? Wouldn't it still just be rotting meat? Does it *want* to be resurrected? Is it a good idea to be bringing things back from the dead? It seems to me that an appropriate way to end the story would be for our protagonist Victor to accept that death is part of the natural order of things...and with just a minute to go in the film, it seems that is where it's going. And then, at the very end, Burton tacks on a nice happy ending in which the dog never has to die. I was really disappointed by that.
There were a couple of amusing scenes along the way, and enough activity to hold my interest...but in the end it was not a tale that I see myself wanting to revisit...which makes me curious as to why Burton felt a need to do so.
|Saturday, October 6th, 2012|
Tonight, I finally got to see 'Samsara', a year after I struck out getting a ticket to its' world premiere at the TIFF, and 5 1/2 years after I first heard that it was being made. Samsara is from the same team that made 'Baraka', which is one of my favourite movies - a work that I can (and do) watch every year. I watched it for the first time at the Princess Court theatre in Kingston back in 1992, and it really blew me away. It hit me right as I was on the verge of adulthood - thinking about my future, my place in the world, what I wanted to do with myself. And Baraka's imagery of people from around the world, all involved in the same basic day-to-day struggles spoke to me. Some people feel it necessary to hit the road after high school and 'find themselves' out there somewhere. But Baraka reminded me that life is transitory and all of our efforts ultimately come to nothing....it is traditions, passions, and personal connections that give life meaning while we're here - and those things are usually to be found where you already live.
Anyway, I was really looking forward to Samsara. And I wasn't disappointed...it was very much a sequel to Baraka. Perhaps too much so, though. It relied on a lot of the same imagery (impoverished people scavenging through trash, sped up footage of factory workers and subway commuters, religious temples, serious looking aboriginal people). My friend epi_lj
made an interesting observation: 20 years after Baraka came out, beautiful High-Def imagery of the world is now ubiquitous. It's there 24/7 on TV stations like Oasis, and on BBC natural world series. While Samsara's director Ron Fricke has a fabulous eye for subject matter and composition, the decision to turn that eye on familiar things meant that this film didn't have the same 'wow' factor that Baraka did. There were a few places that hadn't been covered in Baraka, but even here they were things I'd seen before (the sulfur miners from 'Human Planet', the Chinese factory from 'Manufactured Landscapes', the prison dancers from YouTube...) I suppose I was hoping to see more 'new' things, or see them in a new context. Compared to Baraka, there was a greater emphasis on waste and decay, and less on joy and celebration...so as a result the overall mood was more somber. The music was pretty good too...although even that contributed to the 'been here before' vibe - with the same composer doing the main themes, and Lisa Gerrard contributing appropriately mournful vocal parts. Don't get me wrong - it was beautiful and well worth seeing (and I look forward to having the Blu-ray so I can revisit certain passages in it again)....I just didn't feel as much surprise and awe that I'd hoped to. I suppose I'm just too damn jaded, and that's the stage of life where this film found me.
|Sunday, August 5th, 2012|
This weekend has not unfolded quite as expected. We have Monday off up here, so Karen and I decided to plan a quick camping trip...including us, two friends of ours, and all of our dogs. Normally we go to Algonquin, but the park was fully booked by the time Karen tried to get a site, so we wound up at Six Mile Lake park, which is just off of Highway 400 between Barrie and Parry Sound. It looked decent enough...beaches, dog area, showers, camp store. And also closer to home, which was a real bonus.
Alas, it was stupidly hot yesterday. While Karen and I were setting up camp, Jersey and Dexter were panting and agitated...seeking shade or (preferably) the air conditioned comfort that they're used to. We were concerned about how our friend Dennis' bulldog would cope in this. That dog wheezes like a broken refrigerator at the best of times. But we had a lot of time to wonder. The plan was to arrive at the park around 1. We were late ourselves, but Dennis and Lissa were *really* late. Around 5 p.m., I started leaving phone and text messages inquiring about their whereabouts. Had they had to turn around because of the dog? Had there been an accident?
As it turned out...yes, there had indeed been an accident of sorts. On their way into the park, Dennis missed a turn...and when he attempted to pull onto the shoulder to turn around, the car ran into loose gravel and slipped right off the road, ending up nearly sideways in a ditch. They'd had to pay $100 to get a tow truck to pull the car out. Drama! And, indeed, the bulldog was having severe respiratory distress. Their cars' air conditioning crapped out on the way up, and they'd had to stop a couple of times to let Diezel cool down (the traffic was terrible, and with no forward motion there was no cooling breeze coming in the window). On the campsite, they set up a cooling pad and a battery operated fan for him, but it didn't seem to be helping much. Diezel was making very disturbing noises, while lying in the dirt with his tongue out. And after three hours, Dexter and Jersey still hadn't calmed down much. The forecast called for a low of 24C (75F), which wasn't much relief.
We began thinking about sleeping arrangements. It was too hot to leave our dogs in the car, and if we'd taken them into the tent they would have been panting and moving around all night. Add to that: a) there was a total ban on campfires because of recent drought b) the forecast was for severe thunderstorms (which did indeed roll through last night), which would have turned the campsite into a mud pit for the dogs c) half of our site was on top of an ant hill d) none of the parks' beaches allowed dogs...there was just a small 'pet exercise area' that was really just a boat launch. No sand. And while Dexter enjoyed jumping off of the dock to retrieve his wubba from the water...what were the rest of us going to do?
And well...we decided to cut our losses and just go home. We invited Dennis and Lissa to 'camp' at our place for the night. They set up their air mattress in Karen's craft room, we made the food that we'd intended to have for dinner at the campsite (and it was delicious...Dennis had marinated pork loin chops, Lissa had a fresh salad with locally grown carrots, peas and cucumber, Karen had prepared pasta with salmon and sun dried tomatoes), and we watched Olympics until 1 a.m. Today we're just going to hang out. Whip up pancakes for breakfast. Maybe play some Cards Against Humanity later. Being home also means we don't have to miss the 100 m dash final tonight, or the new episode of Breaking Bad!
|Tuesday, July 24th, 2012|
|41st Birthday Weekend
I took a day off work on either side of this past weekend, to allow time for Jody to come visit me on my 41st birthday. Previous visits have covered most of the obvious 'touristy' sites, so we used Friday to just hang out downtown for a while. Since this will likely be the last chance Jody will have to see it before it closes, I took her to the World's Biggest Bookstore. But first we grabbed lunch at the Panera right around the corner. Then we popped into the Lush in the Eaton Centre to purchase a couple of gifts. From there, we drove over to the Distillery District. I had taken Jody there on her first trip to Toronto back in 2009, but on a cool and blustery day when there weren't many people around. This time it was busier, which makes it a more inviting place. More gifts were obtained at the Soma chocolate shop. Our shopping excursion ended with a trip to the Loblaws store at Maple Leaf Gardens, where provisions for the next night's dinner were obtained.
Jody and I met up with Karen for dinner, at a Korean BBQ restaurant in North York. Meaty deliciousness ensued. Then we just headed back to our place in Brampton to rest.
Saturday involved a road trip to Detroit Michigan (or, more specifically, Novi Michigan), for a meeting of Strangeways Radio DJs and listeners. Jody and I have gotten to know these folks in the station chat room, but this was the first chance we'd had to meet in person. And both of us felt totally at home. Initially, I though we'd all meet at a restaurant and then go out to a club...but instead, Strangeways Radio head honcho Michael Foster offered to host a potluck dinner at his house. This was a way better outcome. We were able to talk, circulate...and enjoy the obscene amount of food that wound up being brought over. I brought Cards Against Humanity with me, and it was a hit with the group, since we're all a bunch of filthy perverts. So many laughs were had! I totally enjoyed meeting everyone (especially jenifoto
), and hope I can do so again before too long.
Michael also offered to let Jody and I crash at his place, which was so great. It was for our hosts that Jody and I were buying thank you gifts at Lush and Soma on Friday.
Now, I had not made a big deal out of the fact that it was my birthday, but Michaels' partner Carolyn found out...and took it upon herself to get a card for me (I don't know whether she had it lying around, or went out to a 24 hr drug store to get it), and set up a cupcake with candles, which I found when I came downstairs in the morning. What a sweetheart! Both were such gracious hosts. Alas, Jody and I had to hit the road by 10:30 at the absolute latest, because we had to get back to Toronto in time for a 3:40 showing of The Dark Knight Rises. Carolyn is not a morning person, and was not awake at the time we had to leave. But we thanked her through Mikey, and went on our way.
We made it to the theatre with about 10 minutes to spare. Cineplex offered assigned seating in its new AVX theatres, which is a wonderful feature. It means being assured that your party will get seats together, and not having to show up 40 minutes early to get a decent spot.
As for the movie itself....I thought it was okay. I did not find it to be as successful as many reviews that I'd read had led me to believe it would be. The motivation of the villains was unclear to me....is it to bring down 'The 1%', or just to kill a bunch of people for no special reason? I could say quite a bit about the film and its politics, but it'll have to wait for another occasion, when I have more time. Performances were good, cinematography was first rate, but by the end I was not gripped by a 'I wanna see that again' feeling - which is my usual standard of cinematic success.
The film was interrupted just as the fight scene between Batman and Bane was beginning. The projector shut off, and the house lights came up. Initally it was unclear if we'd get the rest of the film. But the film was rewound, and nothing got missed. For our trouble, the theatre handed out free movie vouchers to everyone in the theatre while we were exiting - which was a nice gesture.
We walked over to the Pickle Barrel restaurant in the mall, where we met 10 friends and family members who were unable to make it for the film. It was a big group, and I wasn't able to talk to everyone as much as I would have liked. The food was decent, but service was a bit spotty. And in the end, they wound up messing up our orders on the split bills. I guess there's not much incentive to do things well when the tip is mandatory (on large groups). No matter, it was fun. I was particularly happy that Ria could make it. I reconnected with Ria on LinkedIn and met her for dinner a few weeks ago, but Karen hadn't seen her since around 2005.
Speaking of re-connecting, I found an old high school penpal of mine last week, courtesy of Facebook. I look forward to hearing what she has been up to for the last 15+ years! I almost had a chance to meet her on Saturday, since she lives outside of Leamington - which is en route between Toronto and Windsor....but in the end, there wasn't time.
Tonight, Jody and I just bummed around the house with Karen until it was time to head out to the airport. It was a busy weekend, and the downtime was enjoyable.
|Saturday, June 9th, 2012|
After a 2011 which yielded very few movies that I was actively interested in seeing, 2012 looked to be an embarassment of riches: The Avengers, Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit, Brave..and right up at the top, Prometheus. I'm a big fan of the first two Alien movies...especially the second, which is in my top 5 favourites ever. When word came that Ridley Scott was returning to do another film in the same universe, I was cautiously optimistic. Then the first trailer came out, and I was actively interested. It looked like a winner. Word came that Guillermo Del Toro was probably going to abandon his plan to film H.P. Lovecraft's 'At The Mountains Of Madness', because it would seem too similar to the story of Prometheus. Which was even more intriguing. Elder Gods in space?
Well, Prometheus was released in Europe first, and the reviews were not exactly raves. This was a good thing, as it lowered my expectations. Whenever I see a movie with unrealistically high hopes, I am almost always disappointed. But I knew that I'd have to go see Prometheus all the same...and I did, this evening. I wasn't expecting a new classic...I was just hoping for entertainment. And for the first 45 minutes of so, this attitude carried me along just fine. It is definitely a very visually engaging movie, and I was also curious to see where things were headed. I appreciated that the script was trying to elevate the material beyond a mere horror movie, into something more philosophical. But then...I found that I kind of stopped caring. In part it was because the characters weren't especially likeable. But mostly, it was that the whole thing just didn't make sense. The more that the film piled on the flawless looking visual effects, and invited me to accept them as The Real World, the higher a standard of 'reality' I expected from the story...and it just wasn't there.
Here are the things we are supposed to accept:
1) That a humanoid life form came to Earth millions of years ago, and seeded the planet with its DNA, starting life here. Or did that just mean 'human life'? Because while the film says that their DNA and ours matches, so does the DNA of humans and chimpanzees. Is the idea that their advanced DNA started out on Earth as plankton and nematodes, gradually evolving back into something resembling the original donor model? Or that they came specifically to create 'homo sapiens', and it's just a crazy coincidence that there are other primates and proto-human species here? It's also very unclear why they would have done this. 'Just because they could' is not a very compelling answer.
2) That ancient civilizations somehow all knew which world their DNA came from, prompting them to draw 'maps' that pointed the way to it - for the benefit of a future civilization with starfaring capability?
3) That a corporation would finance a hugely expensive mission to land a ship on an extremely distant world, based solely on some pretty iffy theories (and the CEO's desire for a 'fountain of youth'). That it would staff this crucial mission with people who act without much discipline or teamwork. There is a definite implication that they send this mission because they want to exploit the 'biowarfare' potential of the aliens...but how could they know to do this, since there had been no actual contact with the other world? How would David the android know to take a sample of the black goo, and feed it to a crew member?
4) That members of the crew would just suddenly decide to split off from the main group, in order to meet the script's requirement for horrible death.
5) That a woman who had just had her abdomen (and, presumably, another internal organ) sliced open and stapled shut could immediately begin running around.
6) That a crew member who had been killed by the aliens would suddenly return in zombie form.
7) That a life form could be kept alive in 'hyper sleep' for 2,000 years - without evident nutrient inputs, and without developing the world's worst case of bed sores.
8) That the Aliens that we came to know in the original Alien Quadrilogy just sort of spontaneously evolved from giant calamari into their shiny black form.
9) That the survivor of the Prometheus who flies off at the end of the movie will be able to survive a trip to anywhere, without food or a life support system adapted to their physiology. Presumably, the alien craft had also been buried for 2,000 years. I doubt the cans of Alien vegetable soup they'd packed would still be suitable for eating.
These were the things I was thinking about, rather than the existential questions of 'where do we come from?' and 'Ancient Aliens...could they be real?'
So, I guess this sounds like I'm panning it. But the thing is...I didn't *hate* it. I just didn't love it either. It was a lovely thing to look at (especially the scene where David investigates the Engineers' 'star chart', and it was great fun to see the 'Space Jockey' get into his cockpit. The 'cesarean' scene was ridiculous but effective all the same. Fassbender was pretty cool as the android. Karen and I also devoted our entire dinner conversation to the movie, which is more than I can say about most things we see. I just would have preferred a more coherent story, relatable characters, and genuine scares.
|Monday, January 9th, 2012|
|First Post Of 2012
Going back to work last week after the Christmas Break, I felt mostly rejuvenated. It helped that I'm not lead on the current episode, so all I had to worry about was pumping out shots.
In the last couple days of my holiday, I put together a new demo reel of my animation work. I hadn't updated it properly since 2007, so it was about time! It was also inspired by an e-mail I got just before Christmas, in which a recruiter from Dreamworks was inquiring about my availability. And honestly, although I was flattered to be approached, I don't want to move back to the U.S. right now. Yes, I am unhappy with the Matt Hatter project, but that project will be over by April. Also, Arc is a steady job that pays well - and it's here in my home town. I also know that Dreamworks is hiring for their own TV series, which would just be exchanging one pressure cooker for another...although for sure the production values would be higher, as would the prestige. And I do think about career advancement issues, and the importance of having quality work on my resume. But at this point in my life, home and lifestyle issues are more important to me. Still...updated demo reel! I used a piece of music that I heard on Strangeways' 'Black Planet' show (thanks Jen!), and I think it turned out pretty well. I quite enjoy the editing process, making cuts happen in sync with beats and shifts in tone. Might be an option for me if the lighting thing doesn't work out. :)
Backing up a tad...Karen and I spent December 31st at Oksana, If and Sarah's new home - where they are keeping the "Board Gamin' New Year's Eve" tradition alive. It's *so* my speed, and all the more enjoyable now that the crew doesn't get together as often. I joined in a game of 'Tales of the Arabian Nights', which was interesting but complicated. I can see it being especially amusing for people who get into theatrical storytelling. But I prefer games with simple rules but variable outcomes based on strategy rather than luck, and that can wrap up in an hour or less. After a couple of hours with this one, no one was threatening to win, and it was decided to end it and move on to a different one. Actually, we wound up watching a bit of The Two Towers until the midnight countdown, had some champagne, and then played a round of the card game 'Wizard' - which I dominated for a couple of rounds before ending in the middle of the pack.
I recently heard of a game called 'Cards Against Humanity' - which is basically 'Apples To Apples For Rude People'. I think I'll be picking up a copy of that one. Apparently, Snakes and Lattes here in Toronto is one of the only places that stocks it.
Karen and I had no plans with friends this weekend, so we got to have a 'date night' on Saturday. We intended to go to the Turtle Jack's in Mississauga, but there was a 1/2 hour wait, so we wound up at Denny's instead. Karen loves Denny's, what can I say? Then we went to see 'Hugo', which was a sweet film and very beautiful (especially in 3D), but also a bit slow and uninvolving during the first act. But once the character of Georges Melies comes to the fore of the tale, I was enthralled. Director Martin Scorsese is a champion of film history, and Hugo is his love letter to the innovative work of Melies...and a plea for movies to be treated as great art, and their creators recognized for their achievements. And, it inspired me to look into details of Melies' life, and it turns out that much of what the film says about him is true! I'm glad we got out to see it. Before Hugo, there was a trailer for the 3D version of 'The Phantom Menace', and the conversion seems to have turned out pretty well...but it's still an awful film.
I was feeling pretty tired and apathetic today, and at one point feared that I might be coming down with a cold. Hopefully that was just a false alarm. I went out to Canadian Tire, because I needed to buy a replacement for a recently broken snow brush. I intended to use a gift card that I bought as a gift for our friend Lissa, but then I saw a t-shirt which I knew would be perfect for her, so I kept the card for my own use. However, when I was at the cashier and ready to pay, I found that I had left the card at home....so it will be used another day.
My latest show on Strangeways runs tomorrow night: all songs from 1989. The next three years are going to be the most fun for me, because this was the era where I *really* started listening to 'alternative' music exclusively, so the songs represent what I was actually passionate about at the time, rather than songs that I discovered years later.
|Wednesday, December 28th, 2011|
While I certainly enjoyed spending New Year's Eve in Florida last year, doing so meant that I was unable to observe my favourite holiday tradition: doing NOTHING between December 26 and 31. And that is what I set about doing this year. Because I've just been feeling pretty burnt out for the past three months, and even the 5 days in Mexico didn't entirely cure that. It has been a joy to nap frequently, read, watch movies, and generally just chill the fuck out. I had intentions of going out to see a couple of films in the theatre this week, but that hasn't happened yet. I had intentions of updating my demo reel, which likewise remains an intention.
There was activity for Christmas, of course. On the 24th, Karen and I drove up to Orangeville for the yearly Friesecke Lobster Fest. Karen's Dad was in good spirits, the lobster was tasty, the sparkling wine flowed. After dinner was the present exchange, and Karen's parents dropped a $12,000 check on us - on the condition it be used to pay down the mortgage on our house. This is something they had threatened to do, so it wasn't a complete surprise...but it was still an amazing gift. Next week, Karen will be calling our mortgage company to work out the details of using the money. Karen and I weren't so extravagant! She got me pajama pants, a book about Lego, and a headset for my computer (so I don't have to keep borrowing hers!).
When we got home, we opened the presents we'd received from Jody: jammies and a book for Karen, a sweater and a book about Industrial Light and Magic for me. Christmas Morning was quiet and unremarkable. We never did put up lights or decorations - making this the first December 25th since my birth that I've spent without them. But I really didn't mind. I find most of the rituals of Christmas don't mean much to me now. Having said that, I'm sure we'll have a tree and put up garlands next year - when Dexter is better behaved. They make the house look good, and it's fun to be reminded of being a kid.
We headed over to my parents' place around 4, and they had a tree up, so the day was not devoid of tradition. Presents were opened, and my parents were kind to me. My Mom's Mom and Dad's Dad were both there. They both live in the same seniors' residence now, which is convenient for holiday get-togethers....although my grandmother is very frail now and travelling even short distances is hard on her. Still, I appreciated being able to see everyone. Alas, Kevin and his family were spending Christmas with his wife's parents this year, so we didn't get to see them. I missed getting to watch his kids spaz out with their new presents.
On Boxing Day, I woke up around 7:30, and figured I might as well head over to the mall to see what was up with sales. Not too much, really. A lot of TVs were on sale, but our current one works just fine. I did pick up a copy of Dolphin Tale on blu-ray (the last copy that they had in stock), a couple boxes of 50% off Christmas cards for next year, and another book for my growing pile of things to read. After returning home for some breakfast, I headed out again to see if I could find something to spend my $50 Winners gift card on. They were having a sale on watches, and I've wanted a new one for a while now (the mechanism in mine is becoming faulty), but I didn't see anything that I liked. So I drove to the other 2 Winners stores in Brampton - but their selection was even worse. I did wind up just picking up a couple more long sleeve shirts.
Boxing Day evening, Dennis and Lissa came by for dinner (which necessitated some house cleaning!). We broiled steaks in the oven, and while they weren't as good as the BBQ variety, they turned out okay (oh, side note: the electrical panel in our stove/oven packed it in last week, necessitating a $450 repair...but that was cheaper than buying a new one). Earlier this month, I had ordered a cute T-Shirt from the Tee Fury website: an image of the 11 incarnations of Doctor Who drawn as residents of Dr. Seuss' Who-Ville....all joining hands in a circle around the Tardis. I knew I'd find someone to give that to as a present (if it arrived in time for Christmas, which it did), and that person was Lissa. She loved it.
Last night was the 40th birthday party of our friend Dennis. Karen had to bow out of going though. She really needs to make money right now, and it is 'All You Can Toss' week in Peel Region. We also got our first 'snow event' of the season last night, and she wanted to give herself extra time to drive. Anyway, she did indeed wind up collecting a decent amount of stuff - and I went to the party solo. It was a small gathering - just 7 people...but that was actually quite fine. There was time to chat with everyone, and to watch Dana and Gui's 20 month old daughter being adorable.
Tomorrow, I should look at getting an oil change....but that will probably be the extent of my productivity. :)
|Saturday, November 26th, 2011|
|Last Day In Cancun
The shopping excursion into town didn't happen. We were content to fill our day with more lounging...in bed, on the deck, in the 'lazy river' pool, on the beach. Ordered a room service breakfast, and went to the Asian restaurant for dinner. And dinner was pretty damn good (I had a New York teriyaki steak). Then we decided to head back to the French restaurant to get some of their excellent creme brule for dessert. In fact, we wanted it so much that we were willing to wait outside in the courtyard with a vibro-coaster for half an hour. But when we got our table, we were told that they were all out of creme brule. Which was sad-making, but we ordered other things instead. Then the waiter came out and told us that the chef was making up a batch of the creme just for us. So we got nice sized bowls of it, instead of the usual miniature ones ( I ate so much this week...it's disgusting). I tipped them nicely for being so accommodating. Really though...the whole staff here is friendly and professional.
After dinner, I hit the dance bar, for a bit of karaoke night. I got to sing 'Enjoy The Silence', which was fun. At 11, a DJ took over, and I stuck around for as much bad disco and Black Eyed Peas songs as I could stand (about 20 minutes worth). I recognized several of the people there...the couple who shared their chips with me in music trivia; a guy from Texas who almost beat me in trivia; a Dutch woman and her partner, who were seated with Karen and I at the Thanksgiving buffet dinner. Party people were in the house. Anyway, now I'm going to crawl into bed with my book and enjoy my last night down here. We check out at noon, and head off to the airport at 1.
|Friday, November 25th, 2011|
|I Am Victorious!
The resort conducted a Music Trivia Quiz by the main pool today...actually, more like a 'Name That Tune' contest. The first three seconds would be played, the first person to guess song and artist won chips. The person with the most chips at the end would win a prize. In any case, I won. But only because the woman next to me won on the song by Deep Purple, and gave me her chips - because it was the only song she won on, and we'd been chatting through the contest. Her donation brought me up to 20 chips - one ahead of the second place finisher. I wound up winning a polo shirt with the resort logo...which, as it turned out, the woman who gave me her chips already had one of (because she and her husband are repeat visitors, and loyalty is rewarded with gifts when you check in). After the contest, I hung around the pool area, chatting to these new friends - and a few other folks in the area. It was the first time I'd been particularly social since arriving here, and it was fun.
Tonight, the resort put on a big buffet dinner for U.S. Thanksgiving. Turkey roasted over a fire, beef, lamb, chicken, and a whole bunch of other goodies. Everyone was seated at big round tables, so Karen and I got to chat with a couple of other couples.
After dinner, I hustled back to the room to listen to Strangeways radio's Thursday night programming. Got to hear a couple of songs that I requested, which was fun! Then Karen and I returned to the main bar/courtyard area to catch the end of the 'Michael Jackson Show'. It looked pretty similar to the one I saw at the Valentin Maya last year, but I'm sure there are more then one making the rounds at the resorts down here. The couple I met at the pool indicated that they would be going to the dance bar this evening, and I figured I'd drop by to check it out (Karen wasn't feeling it tonight). Well, it's a small bar with a tiny dance floor. The music was shitty, and the place was filled with drunk 20-somethings. I didn't stay long. I took a walk around the resort, down to the 'X Lounge', an area of the beach with beds and loungers, where soft electronic music is played until 1 a.m. or so. There was nobody there though. So I headed back to the room, for more lounging and sleep.
I'm thinking that we probably won't go into Cancun tomorrow. We're pretty content to hang around the beach and pool for another day, before we have to head back.
|Thursday, November 24th, 2011|
|Dispatch From Cancun
I haven't posted anything about it until now, but Karen and I are having a fantastic time here at the Excellence Playa Mujeres
resort, just outside of Cancun. In truth, we haven't done much besides lounge and eat, so there hasn't been much to report. But I shall summarize: It's a gorgeous place. After our first day here, I wished I'd booked a 7 day stay instead of 5.
In any case, we wound up in a room with direct pool access. The first room we were placed in had two double beds instead of a King, and when I requested a change, we got 'upgraded' to a King with a walkout. Sweet! The 'pool' in our case is actually a lazy river which winds around the west part of the complex - which is the quieter part, and I like that. In fact, the whole resort has a very low-key vibe. While there are some younger couples here on honeymoons, the majority of guests are older. This is a place for relaxation, not partying...and that's exactly what we had in mind for this trip.
One of our only complaints is that the bathrooms are open to the main room area, with just a glass door for privacy when you're using the john. Hey, Karen and I have been together 14 years, so we're used to sharing...but still. The shower, on the other hand, is pretty awesome. The shower head is mounted in the ceiling, and emits a nice wide stream...and the water is nice and warm. And oh - the mini bar comes stocked with Fanta orange. This pleased Karen greatly.
The weather is pretty much perfect. 28 Celsius (or thereabouts) by day, down to maybe 18 at night. A brief rain shower on Tuesday, but otherwise sunny. And a nice breeze down on the beach - which I've walked along a couple of times, but haven't sprawled out on yet. We don't even have to leave the room, really. On our back deck, which faces the pool, we have a outdoor bed...which I had a nap on this afternoon. There are also hammocks available down by the main pool, which dip into the water.
Meals have been very good. We tried the Mexican restaurant the first night (where I had Chicken Poblano), the French last night (Quiche Lorraine and Filet Mignon) and the Italian tonight (Salmon Cannelloni). For breakfast and lunch, I've mainly been going to the buffet restaurants - although I did use room service once, which was pretty nice. And only the French place had a bit of a wait....otherwise, we've just breezed on in. There's a fruit juice bar here, which is right up my alley...but so far, I've found the alcoholic cocktails from the main bar to be tastier.
Karen is in love with the Mexican TV channel which runs episodes of CSI and Criminal Minds all day.
Today, I took the resort's bike tour, which actually leaves the report compound and takes in the surrounding land. We were taken to see a guy who keeps Macaws, and one of them perched on me. We've also seen lizards scurrying around the property...and tonight, a stray cat was meowing outside our back door. While it looked cute, we weren't about to touch it.
On Tuesday, I tried my hand at a little Blackjack, and was very glad I wasn't playing with real money. And each night, there have been shows put on at the main theatre....fire spinning, a magician, circus acrobats. Aside from the magician, they've been pretty good. I went to check out 'Karaoke Night' on Monday, but there was *no one* in the bar...so I passed. Tomorrow, there's supposed to be some kind of music quiz...so I'll be checking that out.
We might take a cab into Cancun on Friday, to check out La Isla mall. I dunno though...we're rather enjoying just slothing it up.
All in all, we really like it here and would definitely consider returning.
|Tuesday, November 1st, 2011|
|Moogfest: The Return Home
Today, I was glad that I'd found a return flight that left after noon. It meant that I didn't have to rush around this morning to get to the airport, and I was also able to join Angela for lunch before I left. The plan was to go to the Asheville location of Panera, but it turned out to be next door to the recently-opened 2nd location of Tupelo Honey Cafe - so we went there instead. There was no lineup at this one, but the food was the same. I had pork chops with smashed root vegetables, and Angela had a roast beef po boy sandwich with a side of mac and cheese. We sampled each others' dishes, and both were very good.
In the waiting area at the airport, I bumped into one of the Tangerine Dream fans that I'd met at last Friday's concert. He was heading back to Nova Scotia.
On my stopover in Charlotte, I met up with the woman I'd been chatting with during the trip down from Buffalo. I'd told her to meet me by Jamba Juice, and there she was. She'd never had a JJ before, and I recommended the Orange Dream Machine, which she loved. I was able to use up the remaining balance on the gift card that Jody sent to me....thanks Jody! Also in Charlotte, I picked up a box of assorted See's Chocolates from the gift shop. I couldn't choose which ones were in the box, but I doubt that I'll be too disappointed.
Upon arrival in Buffalo, I went and dropped $200 at the Tops grocery store. The freezer and cupboards are full again, and we have 4 bottles of Dawn 'direct foam' dish soap - which is not available here anymore. Then I went to Mighty Taco and grabbed a burrito for dinner. I didn't need anything major...it was just enough. I still had a few U.S. bucks left in my wallet, so I went and dropped it at Best Buy - picking up a copy of Camelot season one. I like having a library of projects that I've worked on.
Crossing the border was a snap. No lineup, no hassles.
By the time I got home, Hallowe'en was over. I haven't seen Karen yet (she's out scrapping), so I don't know how busy it was. It was odd to not be home for it. I like shovelling out candy for the kiddies.
Now, I have to get to bed...back to Matt Hatter craziness in the morning!
|Monday, October 31st, 2011|
|Moogfest: Day Three
With no shows to see until 5:30 today, I was able to be lounge-y this morning. But my friend Angela drove the two hours up from Knoxville Tennessee to see me, and we went out for lunch. An attempt was made to eat at Tupelo Honey again, but the 45 minute wait scared us away. We went to a neighbouring place called Mayfel's. They also special in 'southern cookin', but with a focus on Cajun/New Orleans style cuisine. I ordered their southern style Eggs Benedict, which came with ham and fried green tomatoes...loved it! Angela ordered some beignets, which were also fantastic, and floating in a sea of powdered sugar.
After lunch, we checked out Brian Eno's '77 Million Paintings' exhibition. The idea behind the show is that Eno selected a database of visual material that appealed to him...just simple geometric shapes and patterns in a variety of colours, and has a piece of software randomly combine them to form a constantly shifting array of images. The results are a bit of a mixed bag - some combinations aren't very interesting, or clash too much...some just look like wallpaper samples...but then something pretty will suddenly form. An interesting idea. You could come back to the show daily and you will literally see something new every time. Having said that, the work itself is without content..it's pure abstraction. And I tend to respond more to art that operates on a more intentional level. I did consider buying a signed limited edition print by Eno that they had on sale - but I restrained myself.
Now it was time for the shows to begin. First up was Active Child, who I had seen before as an opening act for School of Seven Bells. And they're great. I suspect that few in the audience had heard them before, but the rising levels of applause suggested that they were won over. The arena wasn't very full when they took the stage, so I was able to get some good shots from close by.
After Active Child was M83. For this show, we went to the upper level of the arena, which has seats. Our old legs can't handle all the standing. Plus, it gave Angela (who isn't slightly height-challenged) a chance to see. From up there we could also appreciate the balloon fish which were floating around the hall. Some of you may have seen a thing which was getting passed around Facebook, with a free-floating shark and fish that you can buy...well, there were those balloon things. Anyway..,M83 put on a super show. I didn't recognize all of the songs, but it didn't matter because they I liked them. I wish they'd played longer! They were the last band on the festival lineup that I really wanted to see, so for the rest of the night we just drifted around a bit. First off, we stopped in to see Neon Indian play. Four songs in, I was feeling pretty meh about them, so we headed out to try our luck elsewhere.
I thought we could try to see the act Baths, but we arrived to find the venue at capacity and a line of 40-odd people waiting outside. After determining that the line wasn't moving anytime soon, we moved on to see Passion Pit. And they were quite exuberant. There were members of the audience who were clearly far more familiar with the band than myself, leading to sing-alongs early on in the show. Alas, they were playing at the outdoor venue, and Angela only had a light sweater on - and no gloves. After 1/2 hour, I voted we head back the other way. I had consulted my schedule, and saw that there was a band coming on at the other venue (after Baths) named Ford and Lopatin (who formerly recorded under the name 'Games'). They sounded interesting. I'd never heard anything by them, but I figured it was about time I took advantage of the festival format to discover something new. And as it turned out, they were pretty cool! Just two guys armed with drum machines and samplers, they initially sounded like The Chemical Brothers, before dropping in some R&B vocals and then 1980s style synth lines. Very interesting melange, which I liked. It made me wish I'd had time to investigate other more obscure artists here - but what are ya gonna do? In any case, by 10:30 my legs and lower back had had enough, and we headed out.
This has been an amazing weekend! Depending on who's in next year's lineup, I would certainly consider coming here again. It's a lovely town to visit, I really enjoy the overall vibe to this festival.
Postscript: my '9' cap was picked up by another Tangerine Dream fan, and he'll be mailing it to me. So yay!
|Sunday, October 30th, 2011|
|Moogfest: Day Two
Prior to coming here for Moogfest, I did a little research into Asheville's eating establishments. I do this prior to every trip, because the question 'where am I going to eat?' is important to answer. There's a place downtown called Tupelo Honey that came highly recommended, so I arranged to meet some fellow Tangerine Dream fans there this morning for brunch. It offers the kind of 'southern cookin' that's hard to find in Toronto. And it did not disappoint. I began with a glass of peach lemonade, which was delicious. Then came the biscuit and gravy, and a house specialty: sweet potato pancake http://columbiafoodie.blogspot.com/2007/12/sweet-potato-pancakes-at-tupelo-honey.html
Delish! I figured that I might as well tank up, since there wouldn't be time to stop anywhere for dinner later on (and there wasn't).
From brunch, we made our way over to see a talk being given by the one and only Brian Eno. He is a smart guy, and engaging speaker. The talk covered a number of topics, but primarily his thought about art and taste. Why, he asks, do we like listening to music? Why do we like some songs but not others? He didn't really have an answer to that latter question, but he did speak of the human need for 'surrender'...the use of art, religion, drugs and sex to have 'transcendent' experiences, and let go of the self. My own opinion about art is that it is a means of addressing a fundamental human problem: we can never know what it's like inside someone else's head. And the arts - writing, film, painting - form languages which allow us to communicate what's going on within us, and for other's to observe and go 'hey - I've felt that too!'
I made a quick trip up the street to catch part of a set by The Naked and The Famous. Alas, I didn't get to see them perform 'Young Blood', because I had decided to see Roedelius play his solo set. It was funny to see a few familiar faces from the Tangerine Dream show in the lineup. This festival draws a wide selection of people, but they are here to see different things. As it turned out, today was Rodelius' 77th birthday, and he celebrated by playing a snippet of Beethoven's 'Ode To Joy' in the original German. The audience is turn sang happy birthday to him.
Next, I opted to see a bit of Terry Riley's performance. Riley is a legend in the world of electronic/ambient music, so I had to check it out. But I only stayed for about 20 minutes...it was just too slow and meandering for me, and I also wanted to see Crystal Castles - so off I went! Crystal Castles were great. It was just the two of them on stage, but what a dance-able racket they make! At the end of their set, I made my way closer to the stage for the next artist: The Flaming Lips. I'd never seen them before, but heard they put on a good show - which they do! It's very colourful and dynamic. Again though, I couldn't stay for the whole show - it was time to get ready for Amon Tobin. And on top of that, it was quite cold tonight, and here I was without any gloves. Oh - and the guys in front of me were passing a hash pipe around - and man it reeked.
Anyway. Amon Tobin put on an entrancing show...absolutely the best that I've see here so far. The stage consists of a wall of 3-dimensional cubes, onto which is projected a constant stream of fascinating graphics. None of the pictures I took do it any justice. I also made the mistake of grabbing a seat right next to one of the entrance gates, and a nonstop stream of people kept walking by, interfering with our view. Still. I loved it.
I thought about going to see Suicide, another influential artist, but it would have meant walking to another venue in the cold, with no guarantee it wasn't already full. So I stayed put for STS9, who were very entertaining - but I was fading, and opted to head back to the hotel halfway through their set. I need some rest tonight!
|Saturday, October 29th, 2011|
|Moogfest: Day One
The trip down here went pretty smoothly. In the interests of saving money, I booked my flights out of Buffalo instead of Toronto - but that necessitated a 7:30 departure from the house this morning. Luckily, the traffic is all going the other way into Toronto, so it was pretty clear sailing. There was a bit of a line at the Peace Bridge, but they were waving people through pretty fast - and I did not get pulled aside for the new car x-ray treatment. On the ride from the parking place to the airport terminal, I started chatting with one of the other passengers...and it turned out that we were leaving on the same flight down to Charlotte, and will be returning on the same flight this Monday. The two of us wound up chatting until it was time for our flight to leave. We both went to the Which Wich sandwich shop to grab some lunch - and I was saddened to see that they have simplified the menu at the Buffalo Airport location, and no longer offer the 'Thank You Turkey' there (basically, a Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich, with stuffing and cranberry sauce). Oh well...at least I got some Jamba Juice in Charlotte.
The flight from Charlotte to Asheville is probably the shortest one I've ever been on...we were in the air about 20-25 minutes. I quickly retrieved my bag and got my rental car (a Chevy Impala....meh). By the time I got checked into the hotel, it was already nearing 5:30, and I decided that I would sadly have to miss the first band I wanted to see - Austra - who were going on at 6. I had to drive into town and get my wristband, and then meet a group of Tangerine Dream fans who had opted to go to the show by beak>, the band performing before TD. This would allow us all to stake out seats at the front of the venue. Unfortunately, the venue also had a standing area between the front row of seats and the stage, which meant anyone sitting down couldn't see much except the back of people's heads. But I was content to stand, and be right up front for snapping some pictures. beak> were pretty cool. They're a side project of Portishead's Geoff Barrow, and they combine krautrock-ish metronomic drumming with post-punk bass, Farfisa organ, and vocals reminiscent of early New Order.
Tangerine Dream has really energized their live presentation since I last saw them in 1992. They now have 6 people onstage - two keyboard players (including the band's founder and sole original member, Edgar Froese), a guitarist, a violinist, a sax and flute player, and a percussionist. The latter three are all women, and all rather easy on the eyes. When the percussionist was first added, she just tended to add bong pitter patter over everything, but now her contributions are better integrated. Edgar's new wife Bianca was standing beside me at the end of the show, and I got to chat with her briefly. Sadly, the band was unable to come out and greet the fans. But they apparently have plans to tour North America next year. I hope they do...Edgar is clearly getting on in years. Now, my one real complaint about the show is that I wish they had played more recognizable tunes. Out of the two hour set, I could only identify maybe 6 songs. But then, I haven't spent much time with their recent albums, and I understand that they want to pimp those ones instead of coasting on their 'hits'.
Irritating: I brought my Starz crew cap for the movie '9' with me this weekend, because it was raining today. When I got to the venue to watch Tangerine Dream, I took it off along with my jacket, and stuck them under my seat. Then I left that seat to stand by the stage. When I returned to my seat at the end of the show, the cap was gone. I have to assume that someone absconded with it. Booo.
After TD, I spent the rest of the evening enjoying an all-you-can-eat buffet of music. First stop was Moby, who was performing in the same building. I watched about 40 minutes of his show, and he was great. He knows how to please the crowd, pulling out 'Go', 'Porcelain', 'We Are All Made of Stars' and 'In My Heart', among others. Then I dropped in to check out a bit of the show by The Field. I've heard some remixes by them that I like, but their performance wasn't doing it for me so I left to check out Lunz Project, a collaboration between Tim Story and Hans-Joachim Rodelius (former member of German band Cluster, and former collaborator of Brian Eno's). They were great....Rodelius was mostly playing piano...very Harold Budd-like...while Story added ambient textures. I would have liked to stay and watch their whole set - but this was a night for nibbling different things (Rodelius is performing solo tomorrow - I may try to catch that). Next, I went back to the main venue, where I caught the beginning of a set by TV on the Radio. They were energetic, but I wasn't in the mood for their sound, so I went off to see Flying Lotus. He had the whole venue on its' feet, bopping around. That was fun.
But then it was time to go. I need to get some rest - tomorrow promises to be another long day!
|Friday, October 28th, 2011|
|Arrival in Asheville
I have my rental car, my hotel room, and now I'm off to get my wristband and see some bands!
|Wednesday, October 26th, 2011|
There was no missing Diwali here in Brampton tonight. As I drove home, I could see more people setting off fireworks in their backyards than I'd ever seen on a Canada Day. When I walked through the front door, I was surprised that Jersey didn't come to greet me - which is usually a sign that she had to 'do her business' in the house because she'd been kept inside too long. But no, it was because she was freaked out by all the booming and crackling, and had sought refuge up in the bedroom. Dexter was concerned too...he had to be pushed outside to pee.