April 23, 2014


This free blog is dead. Long live the website I am paying for.




December 3, 2013

Everyone is CO2

I suppose it's time to convert this infrequent blog into a casual blog that makes me a bit more Googleable. First step: for Everyone is CO2, my first collection of poetry, my middle name make its first appearance since 2005.  As news about the book, tweets about the book, or other any thoughts arise, sometimes I might use this space for things that don't really fit on Facebook.

I haven't really had much to say about sports and art lately anyway. The Barnstormer does that just fine.


Everyone is CO2, Wolsak and Wynn 2014

July 19, 2013

Beck's Midnight Vultures and I'm a Curmudgeon

I'm tired of fighting
I'm tired of fighting
Fighting for a lost cause

—Beck, Lost Cause (Sea Change, 2002)

I used to love Beck and I would love him after Midnight Vultures.

But I did not love Midnight Vultures.

Who am I to not love something? Well, no one. Or someone. I don’t know.  I’m not trying to convince you to hate it. By all means, love it.  So read on, or don’t. Maybe you want to get your Midnight Vultures CD ready. If you still have CDs. Which you don’t. But I do.

Or just go here: Midnight Vultures by Beck Hansen....

The Story
I purchased Midnight Vultures the day it came out in 1999 from an HMV at St Vital mall in Winnipeg. I got in my car, put the CD in the Discman, plugged the tape convertor in, put the tape part of it in the tape deck, and then pressed play on the Discman. After the first song was over, I began to feel disappointment after disappointment. My Beck blues were alleviated in 2002 by the amazing Sea Change and then returned in 2005 with Guero. Bad bad, Guero.

The actual CD in question

Recently, half a dozen people have questioned my dislike for Midnight Vultures. Most people who have questioned me possess what I would call, “good taste” in music, so I sat down to give Midnight Vultures another shot; thinking, okay, I’ve been wrong before.

Just some other picture of the back of the CD

So listen I did, to Beck Hansen’s Midnight Vultures, thinking about my original 1999 reaction and my revised 2013 reaction and writing the following track by track reaction all within the time span it took to listen to the album. Hey, if Beck Hansen wasn’t going edit his work, why should I? So as not to upset people who actually review things, I shant call the following a review, merely a bunch of pith in real time on a blog...but this is important, people.

1.    Sexx Laws

1999: I remember liking this song when I heard Beck Hansen do it on a talk show, and remember liking the song when I put the CD in.  I like trumpets. And I like falsetto like when Ween does it. Like this...

Don't click on this if you clicked on the Beck album. Oh, now I've messed things up.

2013: Why was everyone saying that this was Beck’s “Prince” album? Prince never had a song that sounded like this, did he? Was Prince this intentionally cheesy? If anything, Sexx Laws is like a Tower of Power song or something. There’s a cool little country guitar and banjo at the end, which sounds cooler now that I have a better stereo than I did in 2013, which flirts with Cotton Eyed-Joe.

            Rating: 4 Beck Hansens

2.    Nicotine &Gravy

1999:  This song reminds me of Fun Lovin’ Criminals or that Crazy Town song Butterfly.  I like the big solo bellow at the end. Huaaaaaghhhh!

2013: Beck bought a rhyming dictionary for this song: “I think we're going crazy//Her left eye is lazy//She looks so Israeli//Nicotine and gravy.” and then half the song repeats this fun little pointless rhyme. I still like the big solo bellow at the end. Actually, the whole end is great—the part where he stops singing. This last two minutes would be a cool instrumental track to play if I ever open a vodka lounge and need mood.

Rating: 2.5 Beck Hansens

3.    Mixed Bizness

1999: Sounds like extra bits from Sexx Laws. Parts the producer didn’t like. His falsetto is getting pretty high. Careful, buddy.

2013: Sounds like Pink’s Get this Party Started at the beginning and a Mr. Bungle song at the end. Oh, this is the one where he sings  make all the lesbians scream.” You know what song about lesbians is fantastic: Weezer's Pink Triangle.

Rating: 2.5 Beck Hansens

 Pause the Beck...listen to this. Then resume the Beck.

4.    Get Real Paid

1999: Robot sound effects are terrible soundtrack to driving a 1989 Pontiac Grand Am. Oh, and that vocal effect thingy…..  We like to ride on executive planes// we like to sit around and get real paid.” Enough. I’m skipping to five. [note: don’t think I ever made it through this whole song in 1999].

2013: Remember Get in the Ring on Guns n’ Roses’s Use Your Illusion II where Axl sings a lot using some sort of terrible deep vocal effect? Now that I’ve heard the whole of Get Real Paid for the first time, it feels like a sythnpop version of Get in the Ring and this is not a compliment. Get Real Lost.

Rating: 1 Beck Hansen

5.    Hollywood Freaks

1999: Is Beck taking anything seriously on this album? Is he making fun of rap? I don’t get it. What are you gonna do with your life, Beck?! 

2013: I don’t hate Beck’s “rap” on this now, though it’s a bit of verbal diarrhea. Words, words, words….This sort of comes closest to Where it’s At from Odelay now that I think of it. Chorus is great, soulful back up singers are great.  I sort of wish Beck Hansen would stop talking over this great Beck song!

Rating: 3 Beck Hansens

6.    Peaches & Cream

1999:  Oh, the falsetto is back. “Peaches and Cream//You make a garbage man scream.” Why? What’s she doing? Is Peaches and Cream a she? Two shes? I’m confused. What the hell is this song about? Stop screwing around with the garbage man!

2013:  Oh, the falsetto is back. I might appreciate Get Real Paid and Hollywood Freaks more, longing for the days when Beck Hansen wasn’t screaming at me. Is this song about sex?

Rating: 1.5 Beck Hansens

Beck Break

7.    Broken Train

1999: Now where’s this Beck Hansen been for 6 songs? This is the Beck Hansen I graduated high school with. This is the Odelay Beck Hansen that we drank Old English on lake docks to three years ago. I wonder what I should major in in University.

2013: Easily the best song on this entire album. Call me a foagie, but part of my dislike for this album was always the sense that none of the songs sounded like Broken Train and all the songs sounded like Get Real Paid and I fear change. I also fear Sea Change because it makes me cry.

Let this one be the 45th song you play at my funeral. Okay yes….if I was making a Beck: Gold album, this would be only track that would make CD1 or CD2 from Midnight Vultures. “You won't find a shelter here//Tell me, what's your zip code baby//Did you ever let a cowboy//Sit on your lap?” is so good, I can’t believe two songs ago the same writer penned “People look so snooty//Take pills make them moody//Automatic booty//Zero to tutee fruity.”  (Then again, maybe if you’ve gotten this far, you might be thinking the same thing about what I’m writing here in comparison to this.)

Rating:  5 Beck Hansens
He wanted us to read these lyrics, so they're fair game.

8.    Milk & Honey

1999: Hey some Rock n’ Roll guitars. Then some funk. Then some words, words, words. Then some lasers. Then some piano. I’m gonna listen to Jamiroquai after this album is over.

2013: What the hell is this awesome song doing so late on this album?! This could be a Queen song. Best chorus on the album. Great ending. I love when Beck slows it down. Mutations and Sea Change are poking their heads in here.  But why can’t Beck just have some fun, Dave? No. My Beck doesn’t get to have fun. My Beck needs to be miserable and maudlin and dumped and religious like he's gonna be on Sea Change.

Rating:  4 Beck Hansens

9.    Beautiful Way

1999: Good song. But I’ll probably never hear it again given that it’s so late on the album, and two years ago Live released Secret Samahdi and that album is art, man. ART! Rolling down the windows, blasting Lakini’s Juice…I’m gonna be young forever.

2013:  Nice little Beach Boys vibe going here. I think Beck ended up doing another twenty songs like this, some of which ended up on soundtracks for Ewan McGregor comedies.

Rating:  4 Beck Hansens

10. Pressure Zone

1999: Beck sounds like Elastica on this one.

2013: Beck totally sounds like Elastica on this one.

Rating:  3 Beck Hansens 

Billy Joel's Pressure Drop, which also sounds like Elastica. 

11. Debra

1999: Cool music, but he just couldn’t resist another falsetto could he? I bet there’s a gal named Debra whose gonna love this song, sort of like how the teenage version of my mom probably loved The Rolling Stone’s Angie and my mid 40s dad loved Eminem and Dido’s Stan, and how I love Kids in the Hall Daves I Know.

2013: From the comments on Youtube for this song, people seem to love it. I suppose of all the falsetto songs on this album, this is probably the goodest. A nice note to end on, and I’m guessing that this is probably Beck’s second most karaoke’d song after Loser. Still, a gutless love song.

Rating:  3 Beck Hansens 

12.    Hidden Track

1999: Well, that’s the end of the album.

2013: Did anyone know about the pointless hidden track that you’d never sit through ten minutes of silence to get to?


April 6, 2012

Updated and Rehashed: Need a Favourite Toronto Blue Jay? Try J.P. Arencibia

Is it the destiny of a Blue Jay to always look up at Yankees, Red Sox and Rays?

Adjective alert! After last night's opening day 16th inning game winning three run homerun, I saw a spike in people reading this ode to J.P. Arencibia, which I awkwardly wrote last May. Well, in anticipation of the Monday home opener, and in honour of my own self promotion, time to repost (with minor updates).

Maybe you don’t have a burning need to have a favourite Blue Jay. That’s okay: not having one is forgiveable, and in the pantheon of important opinion, rests somewhere between “What’s your favourite Canadian play of the last ten years,” and “What is the best Billy Joel song post Storm Front?” (So, like, low.)

But let's say you do want to have a favourite Blue Jay and don’t know where to look. Or, maybe your favourite is Bautista, but you have trouble committing, fearing he will someday be a Yankee or Red Sock. Might I suggest J.P. Arencibia. Who impresses me. Not to gush, but here’s why.

1. That proper balance of a connection with Alex Rodriguez & massive disconnection with Alex Rodriguez. Okay trivia buffs: who holds the record for most home runs at Westminster Christian High in Miami, Florida? I’ll give you a hint: the record is 17. Give up? It’s a tie between J.P. Arencibia and Alex Rodriguez (did the heading give this one away?). Now, just so no one confuses the two players, according to ESPN, Arencibia makes $US417, 400 and A-Rod makes 76 times as much ($US 32,000,000). I’m not sure why this disparity makes me like Arencibia even more. There's something very 1970s Bruce Springsteen about the difference.

I have no problems with this. If was A-Rod, I would do this. I might anyway.
2. Magic: I tried to explain to two people this weekend how Arencibia has the potential to be that new breed of “magical” baseball player (like Kirk Gibson, Fernando Valenzuela, maybe even Joe Carter) without getting all pre-teen about it. To avoid the obsessed Twilight zone—the vampires, not the Rod Serling dreamscape—I have, more than once, compared Arencibia to Roy Hobbs in The Natural.

For any writer (still) reading this, Arencibia is to major league baseball what Johanna Skibsrud is to writing novels. In Arencibia's first Major League at bat, he hit a homerun on the first pitch. Only 28 players have ever done this. In that same first game, he hit a second homerun, for a total of four hits. He saluted the crowd, got a shaving cream pie in the face, and hugged his mother all on his first day. Magic...

Reminds me...the first Darkman movie was really good.

3. He is already the best catcher the Blue Jays have ever drafted in the first round. This might not be saying much given that Jay Schroeder (1979) never played for the Blue Jays and Matt Stark (1983) only played 5 games for them (and 13 in his MLB career), but it’s safe to say, J.P. can already claim this prestigious title. This is not to disparage either Schroeder or Stark, who in their own right, seem to have pretty great sporting lives.
a. Jay Schroeder played 11 seasons as an NFL Quarterback and picked up a Pro Bowl spot and a Super Bowl ring (as a non-starter, though); Schroeder enters that elite group of people you hate for being good at two things you suck at.
I wonder what it'd be like to catch for Jimmy Key....

b. Matt Stark was a hitting coach for the Florida Marlins AAA affiliate (apparently during one of the World Series years), and his bio boasts the curious stat that in 1993 he became the first player ever to earn 100 runs, 100 walks and 100 RBI's in a single Mexican League season. That’s a good thing, right?
4. Sportsmanship and proper comma usage: Last season, J.P Arencibia “broke up” Detroit Tiger pitcher Justin Verlander’s perfect game in the 8th inning by not swinging the bat at non-strikes, a logical choice. Post-game, Arencibia brought with a classy tweet, and what he lacks in full second person pronouns, he makes up for in commas used to join independent clauses when separated by coordinating conjunctions:
@jparencibia9 At times we u have to tip ur cap, and today was one of those... Verlander was special today… Hats off to him..
Ultimately, these smaller gestures are really good for the fragile image of baseball players en masse. [For more on tweeting Athletes, check the old entries on Rashard Mendenhall and Osama Bin Laden.]

5. He Likes His Mama: I was at the Blue Jays' game Mother's Day 2011, and there were some inter-inning clips of Blue Jays talking about what their mothers meant to them. All of them were a nice touch, but the clip of Arencibia hugging his mother (who it was mentioned raised him alone) after his first pro game (see point 2) combined with the fact that I had drank two ten dollar Budweisers had me a bit weepy. After that clip, a sea of people went to their phones to text their own mothers. It was impossible not to succumb to a bit of contagious behaviour—like when someone you’re talking to scratches their nose, you just have to scratch your nose.

6. UPDATE: The 2012 Opening Day Three Day Homerun in the 16th inning! Against Ricky "The Wild Thing" Vaughn in Cleveland! (Okay, so it wasn't the Wild Thing....but it was still darn awesome).

So yeah, not to gush, but in a world of athletes who can sometimes make it difficult to actually like them, this guy continues to impress. We'll worry about the batting average come July.

Yeah, man, you were gushing. It's a bit weird. You're really in your thirties?

September 1, 2011

The Best Curling Music Video Ever

I know it's from 2009, but I'm in my thirties, and new stuff takes a while to get to me, and Men with Brooms (the TV show and especially the movie) was disappointing; this clip is ten minutes long, yet it's worth it, so watch it:

Jamie Foxx is in it. Count the Fanboys.

August 22, 2011

Le Bon Jack: 1950-2011

'We can look after each other much better than we do today.'

5 ball. Corner pocket.

'You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love...'

Truly funny.

'My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.'

Jack Layton

May 20, 2011

"Macho Man" Randy Savage: The Value of the Bad Guy

Randall Poffo ("Macho Man" Randy Savage) was the greatest WWF(E) wrestler-entertainer of the 1980s. Like a lot of amazing wrestlers, he was often in the shadow of another more popular one, in his case, Hulk Hogan.

Sometimes he was Hogan's friend (Mega Powers)

And more entertainingly, he was his adversary:

Savage was always the alternative to Hogan: the good guy. To a kid who, consciously or not, never liked the coolest or best thing (I liked GoBots, Hey Vern! It's Ernest, the band Skid Row), Macho Man was the first time I can remember embracing the alternative choice: the bad guy.

After hearing about his death, I (like others I imagine) am thinking about myself as a kid today. There's really no other sane way to contextualize the death of celebrities you didn't know personally other than to remember their first effects on you. Before Macho Man, Darth Vader and Clubber Lang were the bad guys, and therefore, I hated them. I didn't want to understand them. Pro wrestling taught my single-digit self how to be interested in the villain, and that first villain, was Randy Macho Man Savage.

Savage provided a counterpoint to Hulkamania that wasn't draped in a foreign flag like Nikolai Volkov or the Iron Sheik (intricate political concepts like xenophobia were likely lost on me at 8 years of age). Savage was like Hogan, only, he was nothing like Hogan. And that was all a kid needed if he wanted to avoid the clutches and restrictions of Hulkamania.

Somehow, Macho Man dying reminds me of how glad I am to have never embraced Hulkamania for fear of the effect that might have on my current adult life. Hulkamania indoctrination might have inspired me to say my prayers and eat my vitamins, both rather mundane things. Maybe, being a Hulkamaniac would've led to a love for Nickelback or pleated khaki pants or conservative politics? I don't know. I really don't. But with Hulkamania, there was little room for human nuance. Savage was every shade of grey.

I'm positive the Macho Man taught me something when my brain was still soft. Learning to embrace the bad guy, hopefully, hasn't resulted in my becoming a bad guy, but I believe it has somehow expanded my tolerance, my defense of "unpopular" choices (yes, I realize I'm giving a lot of weight to pro wrestling now). Savage was neither wholly good nor wholly bad. He was as human a superstar the WWF ever dared present.

And for that, his death is not just another wrestler death. It really is, as people will say, a piece of childhood. The piece that didn't yet know, the good guy is not always so good and the bad guy, not always so bad.

Dig it.