Saturday, December 30, 2006

Tattoo You By: Christine Albrecht

I was never one for tattoos. I used to think, why on earth would someone put something on their body that they would be stuck with for the rest of their lives? Akin to wearing leg warmers in the ‘80s and then being forced to wear them every day for the rest of your life.

My oldest son has wanted a tattoo for (it seems) ever and I have always, emphatically said, ‘No’! I would tell him that at 21, if he still really wants to have a tattoo, he may have one then. Well, of course, as every year would pass by, I would add 2 to 5 years to the ‘age of consent’. At sixteen, he was discussing a tattoo for his 21st, and I innocently responded, “But I thought our agreement was 31?’. Heh...

Well, I have been officially 'outed' as a ‘hypocrite’ by my family.

Years ago, (and even now) I really enjoyed the look of toe rings. A lovely ring on a nicely pedicured foot was very attractive. The problem was, I can’t stand the feeling of something on my toe. I finally decided that I would tattoo a toe ring onto my right foot. I thought long and hard and then decided upon inking the initials of my loved ones into a band encircling my toe (simple black design). I went to a well-reputed tattoo parlour and had it done. Voilá, and to this day I still love it. (I always tell my hubby that if we were to ever (God forbid) split up, I’d have to find myself another ‘P’ named hubby, lol.)

Is the sin of omission a terrible thing? I just didn’t think it was necessary to tell the boys that Mom got inked, and they are generally not in the habit of looking at my feet.

Take two - my left leg received a serious tibia/fibula fracture due to a fluke - slipping on black ice. Several surgeries later, I was left sporting a couple of unattractive scars. However, the scars did not bother me as much as this strange indentation above my ankle. I often had people asking me what was ‘wrong’ with my shin/ankle (mostly children, of course, as they are so refreshingly honest).

After a year of mulling it over, drawing and redrawing several designs, I decided to ink a tattoo over the scar/indentation. I designed three wolves howling at a full moon with the word ‘Wisdom’ written in the moon (The moon is positioned where the strange indentation is.) I inscribed ‘wisdom’ with the hope that I would acquire some insight as to the reason for my involuntary withdrawal from my usual activities - running, squash, etc.

I returned to Laurie (yes, we are now on a first name basis) and she inked the tattoo. The design turned out beautiful, and I still have children remarking on my ankle/shin, but now the questions are about this intricate design and its meaning (I have entitled the tattoo, ‘Three Sisters’).

Take three - I was in a terrible car accident in April, and according to those who arrived at the scene, I should have been dead. I sustained a broken wrist (left hand) and a concussion. When my wrist was set, it was done poorly and the alignment of my wrist to hand is a tad ‘wonky’, for lack of a better word. The car accident, along with other/past trials and tribulations in my life has always made me think, why? I’ve always believed that things happen for a reason, so why have I always been granted 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. chances?

December 27th, I went for another tattoo; this one was placed on the inside of my (formerly broken) wrist. The lettering is actually smaller than what is shown here. It contains the initials T B F T G O G G I, an initialism for the phrase, There but for the grace of God, go I.. (A phrase I learned from my Grandmother.)

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I do believe the last tattoo discussion with my son ended with me saying, ‘31?... I thought the agreement was age 40?’ And now you have received a confession from a hypocritical Mother.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Christine Albrecht's Top CD Choices for 2006

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I was going to write about my top eleven CD picks of 2006 and attach the necessary pithy comments to justify/explain my choices. Then I thought, nope - not gonna happen. This time I am just putting out my top eleven choices (eleven because, well just anything to be different) and I will leave you to come to your own conclusions regarding my choices. After all, when all is said and done... I really don’t care if you agree with my choices or not.

Happy New Year everyone.

Top 11 Cds of 2006

11. The Decemberists - The Crane Wife

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10 AFI - Decemberunderground

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9 Regina Spektor - Begin to Hope

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8 Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am

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7 Marianas Trench - Fix Me

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6 The Eagles of Death Metal -Death by Sexy

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5 Billy Talent - II

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4 Placebo - Meds

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3 Beck -The Information 

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2 Tv on the Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain

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1 Wolfmother - Wolfmother

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Fear & Loathing In West Chester, Ohio By: Doug Boucher

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(Editors Note: Doug wrote this a while back, but we feel it is worth repeating, as its subject matter is still in our everyday news.)

Our boy-king has arrived . I can feel his vile presence still in the air, his shit-stained aura reverberating through my being. I live less than three miles from a spot where George W. Bush stained the earth with his presence today.

I was there, but I did not witness his entire nonsensical speech, for I was expelled. Banished. Banned. Routed out like cheap vermin. I, your intrepid reporter, was thrown bodily out of the premises just as the affair began, denied a seat to this foul celebration of our fool president by a gang of soulless thugs.

Hard to believe? Of course not. The jackals have long since descended, suppressing the voice of those who would dare speak a word against our leaders. I'm lucky not to now be in Guantanamo Bay using a pile of my own filth as a pillow, the skins of long-passed cellmates as my covering.

At 5 AM this morning, I awoke. Donning the only respectable clothing I own, I brushed my hair for the first time in days and ascended from my cave. I placed flowers on the doorsteps of my wife's and daughter's rooms, who have graciously learned to ignore the strange beastly noises emanating from the basement that writhe and mix with CNN reports. The child has been told that "Fuck" is a large monster whose name should not be spoken except by Daddy when he's trying to kill it downstairs, so as to condition her from the inevitable result of her father having working vocal cords in this foul year of Our Lord 2004.

I snuck out and drove the short distance to the Voice Of America park, but already the goons and rent-a-thugs were circling the perimeter, no doubt waiting for the first sign of Islamic/Communist/Hippie activity. I parked off the side of the road and watched, observing the orchestrated paranoia that surrounds the appearance of Our Leader wherever he may roam.

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After a few minutes, I spotted one particularly surly looking official walking towards me. I reached for my camera, my video recorder, and my faked credentials and stepped from my parked vehicle.

"Are you from the press?" drawled the hired monkey.

"Yes sir. Just a good American like yourself," I replied, handing him a laminated card proclaiming me to be Mr. Bill Buckley of a local FOX affiliate. I adjusted my cheap ball cap. Thank God I cut my hair a few months ago.

After inspecting my equipment and patting me down for any hidden and newly-legal assault rifles I might be packing next to my johnson, he said, "Well, Mr. Buckley, it doesn't start for some time, but you're free to move around so long as you don't cross the yellow tape."

"Thank you, son. You're doing God's work." With that I trudged forward.

In a few hours, the rally would begin, and Herr Bush would arrive several hours later, having given the local Republican hordes plenty of time to ingest hastily assembled barbecue and the preposterous platitudes of speakers gushing with schoolgirl mirth over the chance to be on the same stage as their decisive, resolute, and utterly stupid commander-in-thief.

After staking out the premises, I walked down to a Waffle House. I'm not proud, but I was hungry. The greasy truckers and mole-ridden waitresses seemed to me uneasy with this black-clad pseudo-journalist in their midst, chowing on chop steak with one hand and reading Deliver Us From Evil with the other, the masterwork sprung from the pen of that great philosopher Sean Hannity.

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The locals should have feared not the reader in their midst. Even the fourth grade education required to reach the top of the current Billboard Hot Country charts would suffice to decipher Hannity's boneheaded prose. It's no wonder John Kerry is flailing around trying to win over those overrated "undecided" voters. If people stupid enough not to have made up their minds at this point somehow come within reach of a book written by one of Hannity's ilk, Kerry will be working overtime trying to explain basic math to more people than just Bush in the upcoming debates.

But there's where these two campaigns show such a difference of thrust, and where Kerry suffers. While Kerry courts the "undecided" and tries to keep Ralph Nader from being stomped on like a narc at a biker rally by 99% of the 30% of people who actually vote in this country, Bush is coming to places like West Chester, Ohio. A place overrun by Republicans who are the very same "damn blue-collar tweakers" who run the town in that lovely Primus song. Except that they aren't blue-collar here, they are yuppies and executives, the kind who made the growth of the soy-milk industry possible. (And don't they know it's rich white LIBERALS who invented the mass-marketing of that shit? Christ on a salad dish.) It's Conservative Land here, and you walk knee-deep in Republican Values every time you step from your door. And people wonder why I avoid the Southwestern Ohio sun, here in my basement. If it wasn't for the Prophet Larry Flynt opening one of his fine establishments in Monroe, just a few miles north, it would be enough to make a man cry.

But no, it's not so bad. At least we have commerce beyond a couple used car lots and some Taco Bells, such as back home in central Indiana, where I'm surprised Bush isn't at today instead. He's trying to solidify his base, and where better than to go than to a place where even Sean Hannity's writing skills could confuse the fuck out of the average corn fed ignoramus? Well, the answer is simple of course. Not only are the Republicans here more educated (if still lacking mightily in sense), they obviously have more MONEY than anyone in the increasingly unemployed town of my youth. The Bushfuckers rely on television news to keep the corn-eaters in line. Here in West Chester they can appeal to their base in person, making the yuppies feel good as they're reminded that if they don't vote for Bush, their taxes will rise, their children will be blown to bits by "the enemy", and of course, "The terrorists will win." By coming directly to the center of his wretched following, Bush will hope to prevail by mobilizing those already dumb enough to vote for him into a well-oiled expanding machine that will jump at command, filled with fear of another 9/11, and with contempt for those who merely ask that we pick the RIGHT people to blow the shit out of instead of Daddy's old nemesis. In short, he's become a preacher for his own vile religion.

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Meanwhile, Kerry's approach is questionable at best. While admirably managing the difficult job of making his party appear to be "united" (which Democrats are now, but let's be honest, we mostly just want to get rid of Bush and would have nominated Al Sharpton if he was the best to be had, and sometimes I wonder if he wasn't) the appeal to the undecided and the whining about Nader has distracted from the real business of getting shit together. It's not that Kerry hasn't worked on this, he just hasn't been as concentrated, hasn't had the super-organized focus of the Bushfuckers. The Republican machinery may be morally bankrupt, but they aren't morons. They just choose morons to lead them. Democrats would do well to learn how to mobilize their base so well. Some of them get it, and thank Lord Jesus for the 527s, who are doing the job better than the man who undoubtedly will need them to be elected. He sure ain't going to do it himself, you know.

Of course, it's a much harder task. Mobilizing "conservatives" is a bit like getting lunatic religious people to congregate at church. In fact, it kinda IS that. Conservatives are of a much more narrow-mindset, coming as they do from priorities of God, Guns, and the Gipper. "Liberals" can't quite manage to agree on anything, but that has as much to do with having taken the time to think for oneself as it does anything else. It's a *strength* in its way. Perhaps Kerry shouldn't be faulted too much for not doing it the Bush way. The Bush way works when you only have to appeal to simplistic pseudo-values. It's a harder job to do when it involves people willing to look past the latest Bill O'Reilly dropping to form an individual opinion. So maybe that's part of the reason for this thrust towards the people who haven't made up their mind yet.

But fuck the undecided, and fuck the Nader voters. If Ralph wants to run, LET HIM. It shows no true concern for the American voting process to deny entry to even the most useless candidates. I too wish he'd go away and not take Kerry's votes into his trailer to sniff on like an unwanted college geek with a stolen pair of panties, but it's America, and we built this country on letting even the outcasts have a voice. And if we could be thick enough to ignore Eisenhower's warning about the military-industrial complex that surely has risen to levels Ike could never have dreamed of, then we most certainly can ignore a pathetic attention-grabbing little gnat like Ralph Nader. If 1% of the population is that ignorant, let 'em have their fun. Fuck them and the natural fibres they rode in on.

And who are these "undecided voters" anyway? What manner of degenerate swine are these people? Only a constant diet of roadkill and Bud Lite could explain the depraved mind of a person undecided in this election. It certainly is the only explanation for the existence of most of the Bush supporters. Do these people not have electricity? Holy Jesus H. Fuck in a shitbasket. In a land full of information, some people still can't figure out the basic difference between two candidates like this. People can't figure out where they stand, even from watching the shitty excuse for news that comes to us on television each night. You don't even have to watch Dan Rather. Shit, turn on Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity. That's the best TV in the world to make you run screaming for the polls to push a button for Kerry two seconds before the machine brings up an "error" message and all the Democratic votes get sucked into a hole somewhere in Jeb's backyard. People go on this "lesser of two evils" nonsense, but that's a lie. Bush IS evil. Kerry isn't evil, he's just a dork. I don't really like the idea of a dork being president, but it's not a hard choice. Is it that big of a moral dilemma? "Hmm, it's either the dopey goober or the spawn of Satan. Shit, I just don't know. Gumby or Nyarlathotep? Dumb & Dumber or Hell Raiser 42: Pinhead Eats Iraq? Do I want my taxes raised, or do I want my children to be eaten alive by Dick Cheney? Damn, this is tough. Can I come back later?"

I put my book down (well, it wasn't my book, I saw Hannity's smugly face floating in a creek while out trying to enjoy nature one day, and brought his vile tome back home to dry off and laugh at) and paid for my meal. The Waffle House denizens went back to their own meals, fully unaware of the "Charlie Daniels Sucked My Flag-Burning Cock" bumper sticker I'd attached to the window-facing rear side of the jukebox while pretending to be searching for a Tammy Wynette epic to soothe my countrified soul.

I walked back towards the park, and the crowds had begun to come in. I snapped a few shots of rent-a-cops to Photoshop into gay porn at a later date, and hauled out my video camera. It was time to interview some Bush-lovers. I first chose one of the suits who looked like he'd just came out a meeting with his CEO and hadn't quite wiped the jizz from his face yet.

"Hello, sir? My name's Buck Billy, and I'm a reporter. I just want to ask you a few questions."

"Sure, fire away."

"Why are you supporting George W. Bush?"

"Well, he's a great leader. He's protecting America. And John Kerry wants to raise my taxes."

"By what definition do you use the phrase 'great leader' in reference to President Bush?"

"Well, he's decisive. He went after Saddam Hussein and got him. And he's not a flip-flopper like Kerry."

"One final question - do you like the taste of roadkill?"

"Huh?"

"Thank you for your time."

I walked around a bit, surveying the landscape as more hordes of SUV-driving elephants came slogging in. The crowd seemed to be a fair mix of yuppies, executives, well-off Toby Keith fans, soldiers who finally got to come home, and intense looking young men with short-cropped hair, the kind of driven twenty-somethings who study their asses off at university and still haven't figured out that they're gay.

Speaking of gay, one of the gentlemen standing next to an SUV on particularly large tires looked a hell of a lot like Pastor Fred Phelps, my favourite Man Of God. Let's go talk to him.

"Excuse me sir, I'm from FOX News, and I want to ask you a few questions."

"Alrighty then."

"Why do you support George W. Bush?"

"Well, he's a great leader. He's protecting America. And John Kerry wants to raise my taxes."

Wait a minute, this sounded familiar...

"What is your position on gay marriage?"

"Homosexuality is a sin in God's eyes, and the liberals who run the media are trying to redefine marriage. Homosexual marriage is an affront to the values this country was founded upon."

For an idiot, he sure spoke well.

"If I've just hit a deer and want to butcher it for my trailer park's monthly cookout, where's the best place to go around here?"

"Bob's Meat Market."

He even gave me directions.

According to the polls, Kerry is losing support among women voters. So I figured I better talk to a lady. Some would have you believe that Clinton got elected because women thought he was sexy, (you'll notice that only Republican men have this insane view) but no rational female I know has ever admitted to this baffling ailment. So I imagine in this election, the odds of any woman of a social standing higher than Daisy Duke making their choice based on either of these horror-movie-reject troll-faced goons being remotely "sexy" is about the same as the odds of finding transcripts of Abbie Hoffman speeches in Donald Rumsefeld's sock drawer. Hell, *I'd* rather be under the desk chugging Willie's wretched sausage.

"Excuse me, miss. I'm a reporter. Can I ask you a few questions?"

"Sure."

The woman looked to be in her early 20s. Beautiful. Gorgeous, even. Unfortunately, she was wearing a Bush/Cheney T-shirt, which could fuck up any good liberal's erection. Well, maybe not Clinton's, but...

"Why do you support George W. Bush?"

"Well, he's a great leader. He's protecting America. And John Kerry wants to raise my taxes."

Fucking Christ. I'm apparently not the only person who was reading Sean Hannity this morning. I better make a doctor's appointment before I get afflicted with whatever hellish virus these fuckers are carrying.

"Do you think George W. Bush has more to offer the women of America than John Kerry?"

"Of course. He's a good man. I'm proud to have him as my leader. I've got to admit, I envy Laura Bush."

My testicles ran screaming up into the nearest protective cavity. My penis weakly cried "Uncle" and collapsed.

"You know where I can get some good cuts of deer steak?"

"Bob's Meat Market." She even gave me directions.

The crowd began filing in, a tortuous process to watch, so I instead stalked off for a while, needing to be alone, needing to rejuvenate myself from the horror I had witnessed. I made my way to the nearby library, stuffing Hannity's book into the drop-box with a note reading "I jus wanted to doghnate dis goood buk fur uther goood Amercans to reed. Luv, Geeorg." I found a copy of the Bible, and sat back to relax with the Book Of Revelation for a while. Just to calm my nerves before heading back out into the philosophical carnage. Ahh, the beast with ten horns. Such a friendly little puppy. Must keep my new furry friend away from that wretched monster Cheney. That vicious fuck would tear Lucifer's many heads off with his bare teeth, drink his blood, then prance off into the sunset singing merrily and counting Halliburton money in his bottomless sin-lined pockets.

Having been unwittingly lulled to sleep with pleasant fairy tales, I awoke hours later. Fuck! The Head Honcho of Washington's slaughterhouse was to speak in mere minutes, and here I was hunched over in a library chair with a copy of God's Good Book in my lap, drool soaking its wisdom-filled pages. When nobody was looking, I took out a yellow highlighter and randomly marked a few verses, then wrote "Pat Robertson was here" on the front cover. That'll fuck with the bastards’ heads.

I gathered my gear and quickly made my exit, only to see a massive scene of horrific insanity before my eyes. The rally was in full force, 55,000 braying idiots assembling to worship at the feet of their twisted Master, and there were stupid-looking cars and SUVs fucking EVERYWHERE. Helicopters floated over the area, and I thought to myself that yes, this was even worse than normal traffic down Tylersville Road at 4 PM on a weekday. Jesus jumped-up Christ in a Hummer.

I ran into Kroger and bought myself a six of Rolling Rock (to commemorate my Saviour's return as prophesied in the fabulously clear and well-written book I'd just drooled upon) and stuffed it into my camera bag. Since everyone within a mile was looking the other direction, I managed to slam down four of them before the cops had a chance to see. There, now I felt almost like a true journalist, instead of the fake one I was carrying ID of. I would have killed for a pint of ether.

There was no chance of getting onto the grounds this late, the tickets were taken and no one would even be able to leave until King Dinosaur had made his own exit, but I made my way across the stuffed parking lot towards the park on the other side of the street. Finally I could hear someone speaking. Some fool introducing Shrub. Fuck it, I'm gonna throw caution to the wind.

I ran towards the entrance and flashed my fake reporter's ID. The cop, showing the great skill and training that is required of his job, let me in (with a brief visit to the metal detector, which of course didn't find the beer in my unsearched camera bag) without a second glance and turned his attention back towards the skies, apparently more interested in guarding the president from the airborne Al-Queda that has recently infiltrated Ohio. I felt dirty, having taken such advantage of idiocy, but I pressed on. Looking back, my guilt was erased when I noticed that the metal detector was unplugged from its power supply. What airport was this asshole from?

There he was! The President! Though I tried to resist, I couldn't help but share the feeling that overtook the cheering crowd, the thrill of being so close to The Most Powerful Man On Earth. Oh my, what I wouldn't have given for a fifth of Jack Daniels and some automatic weapons at that moment. But alas, 'twas not to be.

He started to speak. And then it hit me. The absurdity, the ludicrousness. A crowd of 55,000 people who already planned on voting for this fool, being used as his ego trip while he recited the same mindless shit he'd been pandering for months. I can't remember a thing he said, because within nanoseconds, I was laughing uncontrollably.

Every sentence he spoke brought more gut-laughs from within me, until I was on the ground with dozens of stern-faced Americans, dressed in red white and blue like a giant multi-headed patriotic fuckbeast, glaring down at me. My identity was exposed. No longer was I the faux-FOX reporter. Now I was but a pinko liberal punkass taking a break from his dismal existence, daring to poke cruel fun at A Great Leader.

"Shut up!" I heard some soccer mom hiss.

"Be quiet, boy!" bellowed some hellish doppleganger of Travis Tritt.

All around me, the white people stared in scorn. Appalled at my lack of respect, as Dick Cheney would say. Blinded by devotion to their chosen shithead, they could not believe that a scum bag like I existed in their world. And still I laughed. Now at them as well as their idiot king.

I saw the jackals coming. I leapt to my feet and pointed high at the stage and screamed:

"LOOK AT HOW LITTLE THE ARROGANT FOOL KNOWS!
THE EMPEROR ISN'T WEARING ANY DAMN CLOTHES!

LOOK AT HOW LITTLE THE ARROGANT FOOL KNOWS!
THE EMPEROR ISN'T WEARING ANY DAMN CLOTHES!

LOOK AT HOW LITTLE THE ARROGANT FOOL KNOWS!
THE EMPEROR ISN'T WEARING ANY DAMN CLOTHES!

LOOK AT HOW LITTLE THE ARROGANT FOOL KNOWS!
THE EMPEROR ISN'T WEARING ANY DAMN CLOTHES!"

They grabbed me and hauled me off to the exit. I kept screaming:

"LOOK AT HOW LITTLE THE ARROGANT FOOL KNOWS!
THE EMPEROR ISN'T WEARING ANY DAMN CLOTHES!

LOOK AT HOW LITTLE THE ARROGANT FOOL KNOWS!
THE EMPEROR ISN'T WEARING ANY DAMN CLOTHES!"

They were silent, they were strong. They were swift, just like a boat in Vietnam. The hired thugs obviously had me pegged as a "dangerous element" and were prepared to drag me to the concentration camps, where Ashcroft would come shit on my head and read me Bible stories twice a week. Maybe he'd sing that fucking song about eagles to me, blissfully unaware of how few places eagles had to nest due to his boss's environmental policies. I was doomed.

"Let me go, you vicious dogs! I demand a lawyer! I demand a fair trial! I'm a God-fearing American citizen! You people voted for Humphrey! And you killed Jesus!"

But just outside the gate, a man in an expensive suit stopped the bastards who had ripped off my baseball cap and exposed twice as much hair as any respectable male in the county had. Damn, I hadn't cut off enough.

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"Gentlemen, let me handle this." The voice stopped them, a voice of authority. Great and unquestioned authority. Like Marlon Brando's in The Godfather, sealing another man's fate with a mere few words.

Who was this man, my saviour, he who had rescued me from a fate of constant cornholing deep within a Guantanamo cell?

He walked me back to my van. "Son, you're doing good work out here. Thank you."

"What do you mean?" I was baffled, shocked and awed.

"Son, some of us close to the President know as you do, that the man is an imbecile. It is our job to protect him anyway, and this we must do. But sometimes somebody has to stand up to the idiot and his voters and make a statement. In your small way, you've contributed to that effort today. I know you're not a terrorist. You're no threat to anyone other than those who'd keep the mouth of truth shut. Go on now, and fight again another day."

He left me at my van, walking off into the sunset. One of the top bodyguards of the boy-king had given me his secret blessing. I was filled with awesome joy, revelling in the spirit of that moment, knowing that I had escaped the jaws of the serpent not by my own doing, but because here, in this great country, even some who must serve the foul results of our electoral process, who anxiously await the end of that four year term for another, greater man to protect, some of them see the light. My cynicism relaxed for a while, and I watched the beautiful south-western Ohio sky as if for the first time. Then I came back home and straight to my cave. To share with you, dear reader, the events of the day.

This is September 27th, 2004, as I remember it. The events described herein are real and true and are not even remotely the product of a fevered imagination, owned by someone who barely left the house all day and only waved at a couple helicopters over my yard while I tried to water in the fertilizer this afternoon. Not by any means did I only know of the events of the day through the local news networks. No, you can trust me. I wouldn't lie to you.


 
 

Christmas Meme-ories: By Rob Williams

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It is unusual for Rob to actually answer a meme so Swank decided to post it here. As well, we would love to read your answers to the same questions.


Christmas Meme-ories By Rob Williams

I received a meme (I'm still not sure what 'meme' means) actually forced upon me, by Ted, and here are my answers:

Eggnog or hot chocolate?

I prefer Eggnog, but only at Christmas or New Year's. Eggnog any other time is just sacrilegious!

Snow - Love it or hate it?

I love snow, but I grew up in California - Southern California. So until I moved to NYC in 1999, my experience with snow was limited to Snow World at Sea World where they would make a truckload of snow with snow cone machines and let all the kiddies play in it. I remember it was always really dirty and hard, and smelled, and it always melted too soon. I did love it when it snowed in NYC while I was there. So beautiful. But then again, I do get a chill easily. That's why I often must wear a wrap about my throat.

Can you ice skate?

I can roller skate. Backwards. Matter of fact, I can kind of ice skate backwards, too. I kind of swivel my legs and pretend I'm Lynn Holly-Johnson in "Ice Castles" - before she crashes into all the tables and goes blind. Actually, when I was younger I used to re-enact that scene on my rollerskates!!

When do you put your Christmas decorations up?

Well, usually a week or two before Christmas. This year we put them up on the 15th, the day of our holiday party (a fabulous party, by the way). But I think I was in the kitchen rolling dates in bacon, or dipping peanut butter balls in chocolate, so I only really put up one item on the tree - a little mouse made out of a half of a walnut shell. (My mom made it).

Do you remember your favourite present?

I've had a lot of favourite presents over the years (I'm old, remember), but some of the highlights: Stretch Arm Strong, the picture of Judy Garland as Dorothy that my Dad and Step-mom gave me when I was fifteen (and they didn't know then?), the Grease soundtrack, the first edition of John Cheever's Falconer (from Ted) and our wedding album (also from Ted).

I also remember the presents I didn't get. I used to go through the Sears Toy Catalogue and circle or bookmark all of the things I wanted, you know, like Easy-Bake Ovens

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or the "Growing Up" Skipper doll--the one where if you twist her arm around she grows taller (at the waist).

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Funny, I never got these - maybe Santa lost my list those years?

Does Santa wrap presents or just set them under the tree?

Do bears wipe their butts after they poop in the woods? Of course Santa wraps presents! And so does Rob.

Coloured lights on tree/house, or white?

I guess I should say white only on the tree (because I know Ted likes that), but I really also like coloured lights on the house outside. It just seems more festive.

I do like little accents of christmas lights throughout the house. you know, lights in a jar, lights around the bookcase, etc. and I guess those should be white, too.

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Do you hang mistletoe?

What's mistletoe? Is that like Cameltoe?What is your favourite Christmas dish?

The pretty one with the little candy canes painted on the rim. Oh, wait, um my favourite dish is probably a nice glazed ham with those little clove thingies pushed into it. I used to love pushing those little clove thingies into the ham.

Favourite Christmas memory as a child?

One is sitting in front of the Christmas tree in the dark (the only lights were from the tree) in my sweater vest and toughskin pants and sneakers (I was probably eleven) and singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" to myself, wishing I were in the movie Meet Me in St. Louis.

When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?

It's a toss-up.  It's either when I heard my mom wrapping presents and cursing at an obnoxious ribbon late on Christmas Eve or when I snooped through my parents' closet and found all of our presents. In September.

What tops your tree?

That's a rather personal question. A girl never tells who tops her tree.

Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?

It used to be a tradition we did, yes, in my family. I can't remember if Ted lets me do that or not. He's usually pretty strict about things like that.

What kind of cookies does Santa get set out for him?

Santa doesn't need any more cookies - believe me.

What is the most important thing about Christmas to you?

You mean besides getting a Growing Up Skipper Doll? Okay - having family close, and having the person I love more than anything in the world close (Ted, duh). Having my kitties close. Those are the real gifts.

What is your favourite holiday dessert?

Well, it used to be buckeyes (peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate), but I made about a zillion this year and we STILL have them in the fridge and I'm sick of them.

But other than that I love pumpkin pie, those little mexican wedding cookies (powdered sugar covered balls of almond flavoured shortbread).

Favourite tradition?

Wishing for the Growing Up Skipper doll (32 years and counting!!)

What do you prefer - giving or receiving?

Well, I do love finding the most unique, special, thoughtful gift for someone (especially Ted), so I guess I'd have to say giving. Though I also really like a lot getting unique special thoughtful gifts.

What is your favourite Christmas Carol?

What's that one about Figgy Pudding? That’s the one.

Candy canes?

Isn't that the name of that psycho truck-driver killer in Joyride? (Okay, I love Candy Canes).

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Tell People Something...! Airline Information. By Mark Thristan

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I'm still at home in London, having been supposedly flying out with my wife to Geneva on Thursday to visit her mother for Christmas. Personally, I blame the fog, but seriously, I have been fairly unimpressed with the airline and airport integrated communications systems.

The usual procedure has airports holding rudimentary messages, pointing you to airline sites for further information. Unfortunately, Swiss (International Air) with whom we were flying, had not a single message about the fog-related cancellations on its site; no information as to whether to turn up to the airport or not, whether flights would be cancelled or not...

OK, so, time to move on to the telephone - where none of the numbers listed appeared to be in working order. So we rang numbers in Switzerland, but still could not get through. Fortunately, we were lucky, and managed to get in contact with the airline first thing the next morning.

But, what I am wondering is , "Why make it so difficult to let your customers know what is going on when there is an airline status change?".

There was chaos at Heathrow, and I'm sure some of this is due to the fact that people HAD to arrive at the airport to even get close to speaking to someone, or finding out what was going on. Our situation resulted in the Swiss airline being as helpful as one would expect, given the circumstances and time of year. However, this was only AFTER we had jumped through many hoops to get in contact with them.

If this is the service provided for a general airline scheduling request, what on earth is provided by the airline’s so-called ‘Customer Service?’




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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Best Geek Quotes By: Sashi

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Ah, Digg, whatever would I do without thee ...

The Best Geek Quotes, Sayings, and Phrases

My particular favourites from the list are these:

• If at first you don’t succeed; call it version 1.0

• I’m not antisocial; I’m just not user friendly

• I would love to change the world, but they won’t give me the source code

• Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning.

• My software never has bugs. It just develops random features.

• In a world without fences and walls, who needs Gates and Windows?

• You have just received the Amish Computer Virus. Since the Amish don’t have computers, it is based on the honour system. So please delete all the files from your computer. Thank you for you co-operation.

• Passwords are like underwear. You shouldn’t leave them out where people can see them. You should change them regularly. And you shouldn’t loan them out to strangers.

• Failure is not an option — it comes bundled with Windows.

• Artificial Intelligence is no match for Natural Stupidity.

• Girls are like internet domain names, the ones I like are already taken.

• A Life? Cool! Where can I download one of those?

• Software is like sex: It’s better when it’s free.

• Who needs friends? My PC is user-friendly.

• Who wants to be cool when you can be a nerd?

• Who needs the library? I’ve got Google!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Ten Reasons To Be A Prog-Rock Geek By: Eraserhead

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10) You get the be the only person on your block who ever drove ten hours to a shithole like Trenton, New Jersey just to see your favourite band play in the US for the first time in 28 years.

9) All those wonderful hours of debating whether Keith Emerson is better than Rick Wakeman.

8) If by some bizarre twist of nature you somehow manage to see your favourite album on a jukebox somewhere, you can get an entire half-hour of music out of one quarter.

7) You can amuse your friends and neighbours with pithy witticisms like "One cannot achieve the aim without suffering", "mountains come out of the sky and stand there", and "Phil Collins sucks!"

6) Sex is really overrated anyway.

5) You can type your messages to rec.music.progressive in 9/8!

4) The feeling of superiority you get when your mechanic can't tell you what other band Mike played in.

3) Your erections are thick as a brick.

2) You don't have to put up with lots of pesky "friends" bothering you for things.

And the number one reason to be a prog-rock geek.

1) This Is Spinal Tap suddenly has MUCH more meaning.

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Star sightings ...or, what I did on my vacation By: Lezah Williamson

As we're about to head off on our Christmas vacation, I started thinking about stars/celebs who I have encountered while away on trips.

Of course, residing here in Vancouver (or Hollywood North, as it is often called), I have plenty of opportunity to see movie and TV stars. The problem is, it never happens. Lots of people come here to film and therefore reside here for the duration; some celebs (like Goldie Hawn/Kurt Russell) even reside here on a permanent basis. But I think the only high-wattage star I've ever seen on the streets of Vancouver has been Morgan Freeman. And that, I can assure you, was but a fleeting glimpse - we were driving past a set during filming and I had a nanosecond glance.

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Some of the celebs I've seen while away have ranked pretty low on the totem pole, like the bit actor we saw in Paris one time promoting a 'Police Academy' movie (I can't even recall his name, to be honest). Or the BBC kids show actress who I ran into in a quaint little church in the village of Oundle in England. Other celebs I've met have not been household names, but are still big in my books, like the time we were up at the Griffith Observatory in LA and ran into the Hernandez Brothers of 'Love and Rockets' fame (the graphic novel, not the band) - we had a brief conversation with them, and it was quite pleasant.

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But the big one in my books has to be the time I was in Toronto and stayed in the same hotel (and even shared an elevator one time!) with the members of 'The Who'. I've managed to get a lot of mileage out of that one over the years, believe you me.

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So I'm wondering, since we're heading down to Los Angeles and San Francisco this Christmas vacation - which famous people might we see this time? I'll keep you posted. And hey - who have you seen? I'd love to hear about it...

Belle and the Beauty By: Lezah Williamson

Belle and the Beauty By: Lezah Williamson

At the Stanley Industrial Alliance Theatre, Dec. 7/06-Jan. 14/07


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I'm not usually a fan of Broadway-style musical, but when my friend bought tickets for Disney's Beauty and the Beast, I couldn't say no. 'Cuz, quite frankly, I'll try anything once.

I wasn't sure how closely this stage performance would follow the 1991 animated (and Academy Award winning) Disney version, or if instead it would favour one of the many other variations of the story that have been found in a variety of other cultures - 179 different versions, in fact, at last count.

What I found was that this stage version remains very faithful to the Disney classic. In addition to composer Alan Menken and late lyricist Howard Ashman's Best Song and Best Original Score Oscar winners, lyricist Tim Rice has contributed a number of new songs to the stage production. Other than that, the plot and set follow the animated version with little variation.

Opening on Broadway in 1994, the stage version ran at the Palace Theatre for five years, and has since gone on to be performed in 15 other countries (and seven different languages) around the world. This is the second year that Vancouver has hosted the stage version, and many people I talked to this year were their for their second time - and some had seen it even more frequently. It will likely prove to become a Christmas classic tradition in the same vein as productions like The Nutcracker has become.

And the setting doesn't hurt, either. Playing on the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage is pretty much as good as you can get in Vancouver. It's a fantastic old building, rich in cornices and domes and all the other finery one would expect to see in an old building - and old buildings are few and far between in Vancouver, especially ones of this calibre.

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Based on the book by Linda Woolverton and directed by Bill Millerd, this Arts Club Company Production starred Warren Kimmel as the Beast and Amy Wallis as Belle. Special notice must be made of the set designer, Alison Green, and costume designer Rebekkah Sorenson, for I have never seen a production of such quality in our fair city. I was originally under the impression that this production was one of those big-budget travelling road shows; when I found out that it was all local talent, well - you could have knocked me down with a feather.

There were plenty of laughs and also lots of suspenseful moments, so there was enough there in the production to please even the most testy audience member. The singing was fantastic, and again, of exceptional quality.

Overall, this is a good one, and as I said earlier - destined to become a holiday classic.

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Shadow boxer - Christine Albrecht

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"Rocky Balboa" was a knockout with the critics, and got a head start on its competition by opening on Wednesday, when it was the No. 1 choice. The film's total stands at $22.1 million, about $2 million shy of its modest production cost.

Stallone also wrote and directed the film, the first in the series since 1990's underwhelming "Rocky V."Distributor Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer started the promotional campaign ...

Yahoo news

Normally, I wouldn’t cut and paste a Yahoo news article into my topics; however, I remember waaaay back in ‘76 visiting my extended family in Toronto, Ontario, when the first ‘Rocky’ movie debuted.

I was taken to the movie by my maternal grandparents (interesting in that they had been separated since my Grandmother turned 65, yet remained the best of friends). Of course, being a young 'un, I was mortified by going to the movies with old people, yet I figured I could withstand this torture as we were in a city far away from my friends.

My Grandmother warned me to disregard any 'potential reactions' my grandfather may exhibit during the movie. (Say what? I was thinking in my wee little brain.)

Well, during a time when family history was of no importance to a young girl, I briefly recalled beng told that my grandfather was a talented boxer when he was younger. He was a ‘lightweight’ (considering his height 6’1”, but obviously thin) and he quit boxing to provide for his new wife and soon-to-be-born daughter (my mother). My grandfather was a very attractive man as well (similar to Errol Flynn) so I am sure that vanity also played a part in his decision to no longer professionally box.

Anyway, as we watched the movie, I was surprised at how much I was enjoying the film, and as the movie advanced to the infamous finale fight scene, I caught (out of the corner of my eye) this aged man with: teeth clenched, jaw jutting forward, yet tipped downward, white knuckled fists, shoulders hunched and moving rhythmically back and forth, up and down - almost in a bob and weave fashion, and the occasional hushed grunt. My grandfather’s mirroring of the fight scene was as memorable as the movie itself. He was, essentially, shadowboxing his past.

After the movie, we exited the theatre and my grandmother turned to my grandfather and said, ‘I bet that brought back memories’. My grandfather’s forehead bore a fine mist of sweat upon it as he replied, ‘It sure did’.

I learned at a later date that my grandfather was a splendid boxer, had won one of those snazzy belts that a boxer would win (memory is hazy now), had kept his original boxing gloves and shoes, and most importantly, had a reputation as a solid, bankable fighter.

I kick myself now for not enquiring further, but as I said, I was a youngster and the world revolved around me. Despite my then lack of interest, every time a ‘Rocky’ movie, ‘Rocky’ sequel, or ‘Rocky’ whatever is announced, I am transported back to a time when I finally saw my grandfather - not as an aged relative, but as a vibrant individual whose past contained an eclectic assortment of hobbies and interests, one of which included boxing.

Merry Christmas, Shadow Boxer; I’m sorry you passed on before we could truly get to know each other.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Like Father, Like Son Zappa does Zappa: By David Dedrick

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First let me explain that I’m a fan of Frank Zappa. Not a crazy fan of Frank Zappa, mind you. I only have about forty of his albums. And believe me, that’s not even half of what’s out there. (If you collect bootlegs…oy vey!)

I must admit that I approached the concert with some trepidation. Zappa wrote some of the most invidiously complicated and challenging music in “rock” – even his “dumb” songs are incredibly difficult to play. Would the junior Zappas be able to bring out Frank’s rigorous demands for perfection and musicianship from a fresh set of young performers, I wondered. I shuddered at the idea that the music would be dumbed down, its kinks smoothed out to facilitate a rather hastily put-together tour.

The staging was rock’n’roll simple: a large riser for the stationary instruments like drums and keyboards and mic stands set out for the roving axe-wielders. Stage right was a large drum kit that was hard not to gaze at in rapt awe. Consisting of three bass drums (“tuned a fifth note apart,” my friend informed me – I think), a variety of toms and an eccentric metal bar covered with a rainbow of cymbals that twisted snake-like over the drum kit. The drum set sat there throughout the show, like the proverbial elephant in the room – uncommented on, but so very, very there.

Apparently some concerts had a video screen playing footage of Zappa performing “Montana”. The omission at the QE was perhaps due to the late arrival of the gear, which necessitated a late soundcheck and a later start. “A bridge-related problem,” Dweezil explained. No apologies were needed though, as a typically late Vancouver audience was still filing into the venue twenty minutes after the projected start time. The audience was pretty much what I expected: hippie throwbacks from the last century and reconstituted hippies who cut off the old grey hair (which ain’t what it used to be) – many had probably seen Zappa himself perform at one of his many concerts here in Vancouver (in fact, Zappa had performed at the Queen E in 1984. There was a youngish crowd too, who, like me, had migrated to Zappa’s music in our restless flight from the boring mainstream.

Sweeping all my misgivings aside, the show opened with a Zappa-esque improvisation, Dweezil, in his father’s role as conductor, leading the band with a series of hand gestures as they grunted and squawked at his command before rolling into “Andy” – one of those complicated Zappa pieces that would test the mettle of any musician. Zappa loved a tight band and encouraged a togetherness that would have shamed Siamese twins. As he toured through the Seventies, his songs became aural steeplechases. His musicians chasing each other through lurching octave leaps, sudden starts and stops, bizarre time signatures, mind-bending polyrhythms and all his other moustachioed trademarks. The musicians chosen by Dweezil handled the enormous challenge with aplomb.

Dweezil has stated in interviews that he chose to use younger musicians to help younger members of the audience connect to the music, so it seemed attainable rather than an inaccessible occult science practiced by paunchy old men with pony tails and awesome chops. The band (Joe Travers on drums, Pete Griffin on bass, Aaron Arntz on keyboards, trumpet & vocals, Scheila Gonzales on saxophone, flute, trumpet, keyboards & vocals, Billy Hulting on percussion and Jamie Kime on rhythm guitar) were more that up to the challenge. And their youth gave them an exuberance that a collection of seasoned old pros would have lacked. Fittingly, Dweezil did play Zappa, acting as compère, guiding the band, doing a little singing and playing the majority of the lead guitar.

Musically, the show was very much the way Zappa might program a live show: most of the songs were from the mid- to late-Seventies (“Pygmy Twylyte”, “Cheepnis” “Inca Roads” “Florentine Pogen”) with a couple of Sixties classics thrown in (“Call Any Vegetable”, “Who Are the Brain Police?” “The Idiot Bastard Son”), and even then they mostly followed arrangements Zappa used in the Seventies. You almost felt like you were live at the Roxy (and elsewhere).

Of the guest performers, Napoleon Murphy Brock was the most ubiquitous, playing with the band through the entire show. An accomplished saxophonist, flautist and one helluva singer, Brock is also a master showman (=ham) whose wild gesticulations and even wilder dancing gave the audience a focal point as the band tackled Zappa père’s massive legacy. He gave you a connection to the early seventies bands which can be heard to such great effect in the Helsinki concert (You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 2). About halfway through the show, the purpose of the gi-normous drum kit became apparent when one-time Zappa drummer Terry Bozzio emerged and crawled into the drum kit like an astronaut entering a space capsule. Amusingly, the first two songs (“I’m So Cute” and “Trying to Grow a Chin”) were punkish thrashers that could have been played on a toy drum kit, let alone on Bozzio’s history of the drums museum. After a zesty “Punky’s Whips”, the full range of the drum set was reached on the amazingly intricate “The Black Page Part One”, a percussive piece that is not a drum solo, but a fully composed work that nods heavily to one of Zappa’s heroes, composer Edgar Varèse. Joining the band for “The Black Page Part Two”, was guitar ace Steve Vai who demonstrated why he became “stunt guitarist” for Zappa in the eighties. His complete mastery of all the tricks of modern guitarists, his use of sustain, his use of the whammy bar are mind-blowing. With Vai, the band ran through “Regyptian Strut,” “Peaches En Regalia,” “Montana” (with he and Dweezil playing dual, duelling guitars), “Village of the Sun” and “Zombie Wolf”, where Vai attempted to sonically burn down the QE Theatre. The concert ended with a medley of “Oh No”, “Orange County Lumber Truck” (or maybe “Son of Orange County”) and “More Trouble Every Day” with Vai and Bozzio re-joining the band on stage before ending the show with a burning “A Token of My Extreme”.

The show was a real testament to the Zappa fils love for their father and their admiration for his achievements. It is also a continuation of Zappa’s final projects with the Ensemble Modern as his great compositional legacy is carried on by his children. At the end of the concert, Dweezil said they hoped to make it a yearly event. I will most certainly be there.

My favourite Zappa record: Burnt Weeny Sandwich

**Warning: There were drum solos during the show (although apparently some people enjoy these things).

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Pixart Pocket Photobook By Sashi

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Pixart Pocket Photobook


Let me just cut to the chase:

I won this Pixart Pocket Photobook at Minishorts’ blog. To say I was excited would be an understatement. To win a RM50 product for free is always nice. Expecially if the product looks pretty decent too.

Unfortunately, due to my rather extreme phobia of getting my ugly mug photographed, I don’t really have any good pictures to be used as fodder for the Pocketbook.

So I gave it away. (Think of me as a really undernourished Santa Claus.)

The lucky recipient? My colleague, who shall be known herewith as Knit Nut.

She had gone on a family trip with her husband and son to Cameron Highlands, and therefore decided to use the pictures taken there to be used for this Photobook.

According to the terms and conditions of the contest, I - or rather, Knit Nut, - had 30 days to submit the photos online using the free software provided by Pixart or the prize becomes void.

(Of course, she had to wait until the last possible minute to do this, which resulted in a frantic post-lunch frenzy of uploading and designing the layouts in order to beat the deadline. Fortunately, she made it.)

The book was mailed to her via Poslaju after 5 working days.

The results of which, you can view at my sashi-isms site.


A sample photo.

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The Pocket PhotoBook has a more limited range of page designs compared to its bigger (and more expensive) cousin, the CoffeeTable Photo Book. But with a little creativity, and a lot of patient experimenting, you can still come up with a decent, satisfying, finished product.

As much as I’d like to go into the whole technical side of putting together the Photobook and all, I’ll just leave it to the other bloggers who have already done so. (See links below).

I’ll say this much, though - I think this is a pretty good product, and reasonably priced (RM50 isn’t really a lot for saving those cherished memories, and it makes a great gift idea too!), and I have to commend the excellent customer service, specifically Dominic who answered all my silly questions patiently. Thanks, dude!

Indeed, I’m actually seriously considering ordering the CoffeeTable Photobook for my own photo album, or at least giving it as a gift for people.

All I need to do now is to get over my fear of cameras…. erk.

Other blogger reviews:

Minishorts:No Word Review

Suanie: Pixart Pocket Photo Book

Yvy: A gift worth giving AND getting

Jolene: Pixart Pocket Books Make The Perfect Gifts!

5xMom: Pixart PhotoBooks - Showcase of family love

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Concert Review: Joan Jett and the Blackhearts By Christine Albrecht

River Rock Casino Red Robinson Theatre, Vancouver 90% capacity
In the song As I Am Joan wrote, Oh I wish that you could Love me as I am... Oh, but we do, Joan, we really do.


Images courtesy of Kevin Statham

I have ‘lived’ with Joan Jett throughout her career. By lived, I am referring to Joan’s role as a generational icon. However, when Terry, my co-reviewer suggested we review Joan’s upcoming concert, my response was more apathetic than reverential. Well, thank you Terry for reminding me how influential and important Joan Jett is to music, and to me.

As with every review I write, there are the requisite superficial observations. The audience age demographic was generally in the 30 - 50 age range with occasional children and young adults thrown in. Number of goofy hats - 2 although the men wearing them can be forgiven as they were truly avid and loyal fans of Joan. I noticed a predominance of the colour red in the audiences wardrobes - generally all in good taste save for one dreadful red plaid lumberjack looking coat, and of course, the all important black leather ensembles were present.

The venue was a pleasant surprise. I have never been to a casino theatre and I have to admit that the River Rock Casino and Red Robinson’s Theatre was very impressive. The approximately 900 seating venue was comfortable and every seat had an excellent viewing vantage. The stage was of a good size and the acoustic/sound quality was exceptional. None of the dreaded feedback or sound delays were present. The theatre staff and ushers were professional, friendly and extremely accommodating.

The show was to begin at 8:00 and at 8:15 the lights went down and Red Robinson himself, looking ever like the ‘Red’ we know and love, came out to introduce Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. (An aside - does this man ever age?)The stage setup was relatively sparse, but after Joan began her set, it was obvious that she didn’t need any backdrop gimmicks. She was the show, the backdrop, and the scenery.

The pre-recorded song “Hello I’m back” by Gary Glitter was a fitting intro to Jett’s appearance onstage. As well, the band’s intro song was the rollicking Bad Reputation and it was as if time had stood still for Joan, attired in her leather pants, Dayton boots and jet black hair. Looking as toned and fit as she did at 20, it was hard to believe this sprite of a woman had just turned 48 on September 22nd. As she encouraged the audience to leave their seats and sing and dance along with Bad Reputation, the audience was obliging and eating out of her hand - all this by the first song!

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The next tune could had been called ‘up close and interactive with Joan Jett’. Do You Want to Touch me (Oh Yeah) began with Joan insisting on a crowd vocal warmup up for their future involvement in the chorus. Sure enough, by the end of the song, the crowd was singing at the top of their lungs, with Joan not even needing to add her vocals in some areas.

Joan sang several of her new tunes from her just released album, Sinners, and I especially enjoyed Androgynous and Five.

When Joan struck the first chord of a crowd favourite, Cherry Bomb, a girl from the audience ran forward and threw something onstage that appeared to be a black feathered boa, or a scarf, (Please don’t let the article have been panties as it was huge).

Viewing the band was like a step back in time. No keyboards, backing vocals were needed. Just three guitars and a drumset, and of course some outstanding vocals, and frenzied playing ala The Ramones.

When she sang the chorus of Love is Pain


We are not to blame
For seeing love is pain
An' we are not ashamed
To say that love is pain
An' we'll do it again

from the album, Fetish, many of the fans were singing along. That’s when I noted that these were not your flash in the pan fans.

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Although Jett has been in the entertainment business for 30 years, it was noted that she and long-time musical partner, collaborator and friend, Kenny Laguna, had been together for 25 of those years. Quite the feat in a business as fickle as the music industry. Joan launched into her self-described introspective song, Naked, from Sinners, and I found her voice had matured to a new level. Her tone and pitch were excellent and, dare I say, far better than when she first started out back in the days of the Runaways. When she spoke of being in Vancouver a lot as she was writing songs with Jim Vallance (Canada’s golden son of song writing) the audience again showed their appreciation.

Her song Riddle was memorable for the backgound taped political talking-heads, and the last sentence was a typical George Bush gaff. (One really has to feel embarrassed for the people of America to have this fellow in power).

My generally indifferent (to new music that is) co-reviewer was having a great time and I recall him only cringing once. That’s right, when the lights went on and Joan held out the mike for the audience to sing,


I love rock n' roll
So put another dime in the jukebox, baby
I love rock n' roll
So come an' take your time an' dance with me

Well, I may have been too far away to be heard, but dammit, I was going to sing, and sing I did, right into Terry’s ear.

Several covers that Joan sang, such as Love is all Around and Crimson and Clover were well done and I think the songs’ originators would have felt Joan did the tunes justice, especially Tommy James.

After singing one of her best selling hits, I Hate Myself for Loving You, she left the stage at 9:15, but soon returned to sing the classics, AC/DC and Everyday People.

Yes, it was obvious that Joan Jett still loves rock and roll, and even more obvious that we still love Joan Jett.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Okay I wrote - Now I need to hear from you! By: Christine Albrecht

I have been avoiding writing about the very theme that I implored others to share with Swanktrendz - The best concert ever attended. When I first posed the question, I had two concerts immediately spring to mind, but as in my usual way, I didn’t want to commit. A month later, I still have the same two concerts springing to mind - neck in neck, and a third concert came out of nowhere and reminded me how I felt during the performance.

I judge a concert by a number of criteria. 1) Does the performance make the hair on my arms stand on end? (Bizarre, I know, but very true when I have been overwhelmed by someone’s voice). 2) Do I find myself dancing like a madwoman, not caring how silly I look? 3) Am I mesmerised by the performance enough that if nature calls, I ignore it to the detriment of my bladder? 4) Do I look for hidden or obvious equipment that implies lip synching or auto tuning because the sound is so crisp? 5) Do I speak nonstop of the concert for days after the event? and finally, 6) Do I feel on the verge of tears because the music and concert’s ambience has somehow touched me?

With these criteria in mind, here are the best concerts I have ever attended in my life (and believe me, I have attended a lot of concerts).

Number 1 (actually it is tied with Number 2)

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Sinéad O’Connor (Vancouver) - This was shortly after the release of her album, ‘The Lion & the Cobra’ and after the birth of her son. Sinéad was touring the requisite crap clubs as every new singer must do in order to ‘pay their dues’. Her hit, Nothing Compares 2 U, was years away and this tiny, stark, bald figure came onto the stage and began strumming and singing. I was not overly familiar with her album, having purchased it only the day before the concert. However, after the concert, I played that album to its demise. Nothing prepared me for her voice. The friend who had purchased me the ticket stood beside me, and for once, we were speechless. I barely remember the crowd around me, and I do not recall anything about the venue. I was focused on Sinéad, her expressions, her ability to become lost in the song, then coming around to introduce another song before she ‘left’ us again. The concert ended with an acoustic version of Troy and I actually cried. What’s more, I wasn’t even embarrassed. Here was this little waif who gave me goose bumps, rendered me speechless, and made me cry. She also did another song from her ‘upcoming album’ (I believe it was I am stretched on your grave, and then that was it. and then that was it, a quiet thank-you and off she went.

Number 2 (tied with 1)

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Placebo (Commodore, Vancouver) - Again, I had jumped on the Placebo bandwagon a year late, but I loved their music, forcing every and any one to listen to their music, full blast in my car. (There’s nothing better than a captive audience.) I would discuss what I felt the songs were referring to and found the songs appealed to that inner teenaged angst that never really leaves us (but, hey - don’t tell the teens, they might be forced to believe we actually understand them.) When I heard Placebo was coming to Vancouver, I was quick to purchase the tickets. After anxiously waiting for the day to arrive, I arrived at the Commodore in time to listen to the opening act, Eagles of Death Metal. I remember liking them at the time, but thinking their music was incongruent with Placebo’s. When Brian Molko et el took the stage, a dancing heathen invaded my body. I sang loudly (and badly) to every song (faves being) Nancy Boy, Pure Morning, Special K, Every You Every Me, Commercial For Levi Lyrics - luckily I was not heard above the massive noise. I laughed, I danced, I laughed and I dripped with dancing sweat. Every part of my being was tingling with excitement - the excitement that only a roller coaster and a good live band can give you. My only regret was that I wasn’t 19, as every song they sang related to my life at that time (you know, that whole identity crisis that accompanies youth). Where the heck were Placebo when I was young? Oh right, they weren’t born. After repeated, captive car Placebo torture, my first-born teenaged son decided Placebo were 'good'. Yes, he lied out of self preservation, but I was happy.

Number 3

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Concrete Blonde (Commodore, Vancouver)- Unless Johnette (lead singer) gets going soon, I have a feeling I was privy to her last Concrete Blonde Concert. I even flew to Toronto (after the gig I saw) to see the CB show, only to find out that the band cancelled due to the SARS outbreak. I have seen Concrete Blonde many times over the years - some concerts were good, some were ... well perhaps the band over indulged prior to playing. This concert, as usual, was packed and I was ready for anything. Johnette came out and from the first couple of vocal notes, I realized that this would be history in the making. She was in top form and the concert curiously did not plug a specific album. If anything, it was a ‘greatest hits’ type of performance. Also, I was amazed that she played every song that I could ever hope to hear. It was as if she took my own personal playlist from my imagination and followed it verbatim. She spoke between songs, she joked, she cajoled, and she was hilarious. Tomorrow, Wendy had me crying (as did When I was Young and Roxy) Seriously, look up some of the lyrics for these songs - amazing stuff. Then came the feelings of anger with God is a bullet and Jenny. Concrete Blonde effectively led me through a range of emotions that I was not even expecting to encounter. Sad note, my present husband and I share an affinity for Walking in Londonwhich was not played. Another odd thing, my ex husband, whom I managed to spot across the room (despite the packed to the rafters audience) spotted me at the same time. After 14 years of being apart and never speaking, we merely hugged, and said nothing more, silent in our appreciation of good music. Concrete Blonde meant something to the both of us and it highlighted a time in my life that I had shared with this now stranger. As certain songs were sung, we merely looked at each other and I felt that sorrow that one feels when they see someone who had so much charismatic potential, yet not enough chutzpah to pull it off. If you ever get a chance, listen to the song Little Conversations as it sums up my first marriage (ha - along with Eurythmics’ Thorn in my Side). Concrete Blonde has not returned to Vancouver since, and I have not felt that onslaught speed-dial of emotions since. Thank you Johnette.

So there you have it - I finally committed.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Joan Jett Coming to Vancouver Dec 16/06

Can you believe it? Joan Jett, the ‘Godmother of Punk’ is coming to Vancouver, and not just Vancouver, but to Richmond!?

Joan remains as prolific today as she did in back in the 70’s 80’s and 90’s. Not only was she involved in mainstream music, but she was also behind many theme songs (ie: ESPN X-Games) as well as acting (both on film and stage). She is definitely a force to be reckoned with.

So, buy your tickets (if you still can) and go see this still vibrant, still relevant musician. You won’t regret it.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Regina Spektor's 'Year to remember' By: Christine Albrecht

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Recently, Regina Spektor gained a huge media buzz when her video for ‘Fidelity’ was viewed over 200,000 times in two days on the YouTube website. Being an avid ‘Youtuber’, I was pleased to see an artist, whom I have been listening to for years, finally coming into her own.

Regina has been a prolific song writer who’s been on the music scene since 2001. What first drew me to Regina was her similarity to Lesley Feist (whom I enjoy immensely) as well as to Ani Defranco. As well as the Youtube phenomena, Regina went through a fast-paced circuit of the late night shows in 2003, from Jimmy Kimmel to Jay Leno.

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I especially enjoy Regina’s video, ‘Fidelity’, for its arty black and white linear set design with the occasional splash of colour, such a red and yellow, to deliver an even more pleasing contrast.

However, I have to confess I was one of those anonymous Youtube critics who dared to criticise the song ‘Fidelity’ for its annoying staccato refrain during the drawn out singing of the word ‘Heart’. Imagine my surprise when, several weeks after posting that critique, I found myself humming along with the, ‘ha,ha, har har har heart’ I earlier despised. Aside from that sort-lived refrain blip (which does grow on you - and not like fungus) this may well be Regina’s crowning achievement.

Visit Youtube's video at Fidelity

Live-Wise (Music-Wise)The Best Concerts I attended in 2006 By: Mike Gillis:

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Broken Social Scene

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- this show was in Halifax during the hooplah-cane of Canadian musicality that is known as Juno weekend. Which meant that pretty much the entire BSS super team were on-hand to crowd the stage; even whats-her-Feist. They played a pretty long set, including just about every song from their latest album. About halfway through I started playing a little song-by-song tally game. (Okay... 3 guitars, 2 trumpets, 4 vocals, 2 drummers, etc. etc. etc.). It was a big show in every sense of the word. Towards the end I really had to pee but was afraid I'd miss my song so I stayed and squirmed and prayed. This gave new meaning to the words "It's All Gonna Break".

Chad Vangaalen

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- the first time I saw CVG was at the Pop Explosion 2 years ago; which I assume I enjoyed but barely remember due to excessive consumption. This time I was a little more sensible and it was a slightly more intimate venue. This guy is fucking awesome. strumming and shrieking and harmonica-ing and foot pedal drumming his weirdly catchy little songs all by himself. (Towards the end he was joined by some other players, but it was his stage, his law). An excellent show with plenty of babes who wouldn't talk to me. (Warning!! to the shitbag scenekids who'd rather stand up front horsing around to get seen than actually watch this guy perform his songs... I remember your stupid haircuts and I will make our next meeting impossibly uncomfortable and morbidly embarrassing. for you.)

TV On The Radio

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- these guys were great. Packed house, lots of energy, great musicianship, interesting banter, catchy songs and even a shout out to Hall and Oates. One of those shows where you leave feeling totally fucking juiced. A++.

The Freaky Blind Guy

who was singing., "Hard To Say I'm Sorry" by Chicago in the Guy-Concordia Metro station - absolutely mind blowing.

Dinosaur Jr.

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(picture by Kevin Scanlon) - I was half drunk, half running, and all the way stoked-as-hell; just minutes from the Marquee Club and Dinosaur Fucking Junior; when I reached in my pocket and realized that I forgot my fucking earplugs. I could see them, sitting on my desk (well not MY desk really because I was staying at someone's place because I was kind of in-between homes at the moment, but anyway). I stopped for a second and weighed my options. Go to the show and guarantee myself semi-permanent ear damage? Or not go to the show and wake up every morning in a sea of bile and spew and preventable self-hatred for the rest of my days. So I did the responsible thing and stood a foot and a half away from the stage and got my ears reamed by all the songs that my ears have been begging to get reamed by since before I could sprout facial hair. It was feirce. the noise was punching my organs. J looked like a cross between Gandalf the Grey and a guitar with legs. Fucking perfect. Also, the ringing is starting to fade a little.
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posted by mike | 6:50 PM | 0 comments

Teddy Facepuncher By: Mike Gillis

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I was fourteen. All my friends were fourteen except for one who was thirteen. Teddy Facepuncher was definintley not fourteen. He was only a few grades ahead of us in school but the dude looked like he was twenty. Maybe he was. Impossible to tell. Not a lot was known about Teddy but these were the facts we had:

1 - He smoked. (We smoked sometimes too, but not the way Teddy Smoked. He didn't use his hands, he just put the cigarette in his mouth, lit it and devoured the fumes, exhaling usually out of his nose. It wasn't dissimilar to how Cookie Monster ate cookies.)

2 - He was never more than a few feet away from his dirtbike, which was lime green, had crappily painted black lightning bolts on each side, looked a hundred years old and was louder than Satan's lawnmower, chewing marble grass at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

3 - He was rarely at school (even though he lived exactly two blocks from the school.)

4 - He was always, always hanging out behind the corner store (which wasn't actually on a corner, but was called The Corner Store nonetheless.)

5 - He loved, loved punching people in the face.

I've personally witnessed Teddy punch seven people in the face. One was our gym teacher, who Teddy punched outside of a school dance. Most were just guys Teddy fought behind the store.

One was my friend Marco, who Teddy punched for standing too close to his bike, (he cried). {Marco cried, not Teddy.} He was a bully and a villian in every sense. His games were intimidation and humiliation, and he played them with ease.

But by far the best/worst thing about Teddy was that his actual, real, honest to God last name was Facepuncher.

I shit you not.

It's in the yearbook.

This was the topic of many a weekend afternoon debate. Did he punch faces just because that was his namesake and he was trying to live up to it? Or was his ability to apply knuckles to the frontside of your head, innate? Was he born punching? What if he were born Teddy Treeclimber? Or Teddy Sucksatnintendo? Or Teddy Highfives? Would that change anything?

The usual protocol for for us anytime Teddy was near was to give him a wide berth. Cross the street, walk faster, keep your eyes down. It helped that you could hear his bike coming from several blocks away. I wasn't sure if I thought he was cool or scary or both or something else entirely.

But that day in November, as we were leaving the store with comic books and matches and Jolt Cola, I became sure of one thing. I wanted Teddy to punch me in the face. I wanted Teddy to punch me in the face for four reasons:

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1 - I'd never been punched in the face before, and figured if you're gonna go, go with the best.

2 - So I could prove to Marco that he really was a pussy for crying for so long after Teddy punched him in the face.

3 - Maybe getting punched by Teddy would transfer some of his cool scariness over to me and in turn...

4 - Impress Janine Miller/make Janine Miller feel sorry for me and let me put my hand up her shirt.

We weren't more than a few steps out of the store's entrance when we heard the familiar, mangled roar of Teddy's shitbike. I turned to Marco and asked him to hold my Jolt Cola.

'Why', he asked.

'Because I have something to say to Teddy', I replied.

He gave me the same yeah-whatever look he gave me a hundred times a day, but he held my stuff for me regardless. Teddy had just zipped past us and was leaning his kickstandless bike against the front of the store. We were about ten feet away, far inside or usual sphere of Teddy avoidingness. I took a step toward him.

"Hey Teddy...", I yelled.

He turned and I assume he glared at me.

It was hard to tell through his sunglasses (that he was wearing despite it being gray and almost raining and November.) He raised his arms from his sides slightly, striking a 'What the fuck, kid?' kind of pose.

I inhaled.

I exhaled.

"Eat shit, Teddy."

I couldn't see or hear Marco and the others, but I assumed they had scattered. Jumped the ditch and scrambled a few feet into the woods, where they could watch the murder from a safe distance. I couldn't turn and see for sure because my eyes were fixed on the angry denim juggernaut barreling towards me. This was it.

A few steps more and he raised his fist and I swear to Metroid the second before he launched it he was wearing the only smile I'd ever seen cross his face.

Obviously I hit the ground. Tits up on the dirty pavement. I could taste blood and everything sounded weird, noise warping around my head in some kind of arc like that time I slipped and cranked my head on the ice in the third grade. Teddy was still standing above me. His fist had landed on my left cheekbone/side of my nose. He looked down at me, taking a drag of the cigarette I hadn't even noticed until I was on the ground. Victory smoke. It was then that I realized why he'd smiled right before flattening me. Because I was giving him what he wanted most. A face to punch. I was helping him continue to be what he had always been. Teddy Facepuncher. And it was during this moment of realization that I decided to swiftly and forcefully bury my Velcro-sneakered toe into his nutsack.

Obviously he hit the ground. I hastily but shakily got to my feet and began to stagger away. My faculties slightly dulled and blood dripping from my face. I half thought about kicking his bike over but decided against it. When a warrior hucks a spear at you, do you kill his horse? When a Care Bear touches you in a weird place do you destroy it's cloud car? No. And why turn certain beatings into a death sentence? As I wobbily marched home, collecting noseblood and brainjuice on my sleeve, I knew that I had perhaps set something dreadful into motion. I'd have to be driven to and from school in an armored vehicle from now on. And my friends would probably catch some fallout beatings as well. Maybe Teddy will try to kill me in my sleep. Maybe I was dying right now. Maybe I should go back and call Janine from the payphone, so I could touch a boob before I slip into a coma and rot away.

Everything was a question mark now. Except for one thing. One thing that would stand as legend in this town for generations. The day the mighty Teddy Facepuncher was defeated by a brave and noble young boy. A boy named Michael Bagcrusher.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Dec 11th a Big Day for Sarah Slean, Josh Groban AND Michael Bublé

Sarah is on Canada AM and Josh and Michael on Oprah!

Sarah Slean will be performing "Lucky Me" on CANADA AM on Monday, December 11th with the Blue Spruce Quartet at 8:50 am EST .Check this link for the broadcast time in your area.

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Sarah will also be doing an interview and performing "Lucky Me" on MTV LIVE on Monday, December 11th at 7:10 pm EST. You can also watch this plus bonus performances of "California," and "Out In The Park" on Click on MTV LIVE tab.

As well, Fantastic Oprah News!

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Josh Groban AND Michael Bublé (with Tony Bennett) both taped performances on OPRAH the other day, and the show will air this coming Monday, December 11 th. We all know what appearing on Oprah does to artists' numbers. Good luck to all of them.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Best Concert I Ever Attended - The Blasters By: Terry Lowe

I retired my blue suede shoes (with honours) after I saw Chuck Berry play, for free, in a suburban car dealership parking lot. It was a promotional gig: the guy who owned the car dealership wanted some attention, so he hired Chuck to play. Chuck'll go anywhere; just give him his fee ($60,000), and he'll grab his guitar and get on a plane. He hires local sidemen, figuring anyone who can play rock'n'roll already knows his stuff, and thus gets to keep most of that fee for himself.

So there he was: Chuck Berry with brilliantined pompadour, two-toned shoes and a paisley jacket, duck-walking across the stage in the middle of a Sunday afternoon. He was professional, delivered the goods, but he looked like he was glad the airport was nearby. He kept glaring at the bass player for missing cues, and the poor bass man (a kid really) could only shrug and keep trying. What the hell, you only get to play with a legend once, may as well make the best of it.

My blue suede shoes were falling apart at the seams anyway. There was a revolution in popular music just around the corner (well, in England really), and it didn't take long for Vancouver to become a hotbed of new wave /punk with all its furious energy. Now, that was fun: rebellious, chaotic, noisy, creative, drunk, and wildly divergent. As a friend once remarked of the Sex Pistols (who actually sucked as a band), "They opened a lot of doors."

And thus we got to see a lot of great stuff unfold here in the late 70s and early 80s, especially once the Commodore Ballroom realized that these bands could bring in large crowds. I saw a lot of great shows there, and even remember a few of them. The one that stands out the most was The Blasters, circa 1982.

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The Blasters were two brothers - Phil and Dave Alvin - from Downey, California, along with some masterful sidemen (including piano and sax). Their roots ran deep into every vein of American music. Trying to describe them is like trying to describe the early Elvis - there was really nothing quite like them, before or since. Nominally, they were a rockabilly band, but they also had influences in the blues, country and western, Chicano R & B (like their friends Los Lobos), and plain old rock and roll.

And could they rock! They blew the roof off that place, and the audience kept wailing for more. And the thing I noticed most was the diversity of the crowd: leftover hippies, punkers, preppy college kids, even a table or two of greying Hells Angels, and ALL were thoroughly enjoying themselves.

This was because they had truly great songs, and were truly great musicians. The Blasters had a rule for admission in their band: everyone had to be able to play everyone else's instruments. This was so they understood how those other instruments worked alongside their own, and it showed. I've never seen a band play better live.

They were also dedicated to keeping it real: no computers, synthesizers, or any other such digital tricks allowed. Phil Alvin, lead singer and rhythm guitarist is also a student of advanced mathematics, and he has a lot of theories(which he hopes to turn into proven formulas) about what the structure of music is, what it represents, and how it gets that way. He told an interviewer, "Give me a rock, man. I'll sit over here and bang with the rock and sing - and you play synthesizer - and I betcha I can get a bigger crowd." He concluded that conversation by saying, "Rock jazz fusion funk punk country swing blues - the names are in. Now it's technique. Now you concatenate."

It's almost a truism that a band that good can't last. Chief songwriter Dave Alvin left in 1985 or 86, and they never really recovered. But while they were active, they were untouchable. They usually ended their shows with the crowd-pleasing 'Marie Marie' - once described as the best Chuck Berry song that Chuck Berry didn't write - and just before the house lights went up, Phil would yell at the crowd, "We're the Blasters, tell yer friends..."

Yes, indeed; people still talk about that show.

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Body Works 3 By: Lezah Williamson

at Science World, Vancouver until Jan. 14, 2006

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I went to see the highly controversial Body Works 3 at Science World on Monday. I say highly controversial because there has been quite the firestorm over this exhibit in the media and around various School Board meeting tables since the display opened. In fact, a number of local School Boards have (narrow-mindedly, in my opinion) banned this particular exhibit. And why is that? Well, it's because real human bodies are used; obviously some would have strong feelings over this.

Me? I'm not so fussy.

So I went. And I enjoyed it, so much so that I will be going again this weekend. To say I was fascinated would be an understatement.

I had heard about the exhibit before I went, and also did a bit of research. This show has already toured the globe extensively (hence the '3' at the end of the title), but with each tour, more and different displays are added, and advances are made in the science of plastination, the technique invented in 1977 by Dr. Gunther von Hagens.

Body Works 3 is actually fully titled Body Works 3: The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies. Each of the bodies was donated to science and has since undergone the process of plastination. Each one is stripped of skin and, in some cases, split or otherwise altered in order to show the workings of the anatomy beneath the surface. Muscles figure prominently, but all systems and organs are exposed. The figures are posed in a variety of real life positions as well as in some not-so-usual ones - there's a skateboarder and a trapeze artist, for instance.

But the part I found even more interesting than the actual bodies were the cross sections showing various disease processes. That was truly fascinating.

And then there was the obese man. This is particular display is new to Body Works, as previously the technology did not exist for plastinating adipose tissue (fat). But now they can do it, and as a result we get to see a cross-section of the body of an otherwise healthy 50 year old man who just happens to weigh 300 lbs. The sheer stress that this extra weight puts on his body is palpable - fat covers every aspect of his body - even between his vertebrae. The pressure on his heart is there for everyone to see right before their eyes; it's clear why he did of a heart attack at a relatively young age.

I highly recommend this exhibit. For those who are a bit squeamish, it might be better left off the 'must see' list, but anyone else with an inquiring mind - GO! See it! I dare you.