Monday, March 26, 2007


Traveling Wilburys Music Available for the First Time in a Decade

Christine Albrecht

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Remastered and Expanded Collectible Packages Feature

Unreleased Bonus Tracks and DVD

Release Date June 12, 2007

Nearly twenty years after the creation of the band, and over a decade since the music was last available to fans, the music of The Traveling Wilburys will be reissued on June 12, 2007. Rhino Entertainment announced the project today and will distribute the package from the Wilbury Records label.

The previously released albums Traveling Wilburys Volume 1 and Traveling Wilburys Volume 3 feature inarguably some of music’s greatest singer-songwriters—George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan—as the iconic band The Traveling Wilburys. Both CDs will be combined into one release, The Traveling Wilburys Collection, and will feature bonus tracks of rare and newly mixed previously unreleased music along with a bonus DVD featuring a 24-minute documentary showing unseen footage of the Wilburys and their five video clips.

The Traveling Wilburys collectible packages will be available in four configurations. Each configuration is a remarkable commemoration of this unique group.

• Standard Package – Features 2 CDs (Volumes 1 and 3) with bonus tracks, bonus DVD of content and a 16-page collectible book.

• Deluxe Edition Set – Linen bound deluxe edition features 2 CDs (Volumes 1 and 3) with bonus tracks, bonus DVD, and a 40-page collectible book with photos, original liner notes, new liner notes and a uniquely numbered certificate of authenticity.

• Vinyl Edition – Features 2 vinyl releases of Volumes 1 and 3 with an additional 12-inch featuring bonus tracks, a collectible album-sized book, plus additional postcards/posters.

• Digital Edition Bundle – Features downloadable editions of both CDs (Volumes 1 and 3) with bonus tracks, video content and an interactive booklet.

The Traveling Wilburys release marks the first time in ten years the product has been issued. Marking the occasion, Rhino Entertainment President Scott Pascucci commented, “We’re honoured to be involved with making the music of this extraordinary group available again.”

In trying to explain how the Wilburys originally came together, George Harrison once said, “The thing about the Wilburys for me is—if we’d tried to plan it, or if anybody had said, let’s form this band and get these people in it—it would never happen, it’s impossible. It happened completely, just by magic, just by circumstance. Maybe there was a full moon that night or something like that. It was quite a magical little thing really.”

The Traveling Wilburys BACKGROUND

The Traveling Wilburys was not a carefully planned band, not formed from deep premeditation. Rather, the band was created in a casual blending of genuine friends one ordinary afternoon, which turned out to be anything but ordinary.

George Harrison needed a B-side song to accompany a European single release from his widely regarded Cloud Nine album. While in Los Angeles, George approached Jeff Lynne for help with the B-side, since he had co-produced the album. It happened that Jeff was working with Roy Orbison on the upcoming Mystery Girl album. Roy readily agreed to lend a hand in the musical effort. As fate would luckily dictate, George’s guitar was at Tom Petty’s house, and he too offered to join in and make some music. When the group showed up to record, Dylan also lent a hand to help complete the half-finished song George had written. George has often been quoted as saying, “And so everybody was there and I thought, I’m not gonna just sing it myself, I’ve got Roy Orbison standing there. I’m gonna write a bit for Roy to sing. And then, as it progressed, then I started doing the vocals and I just thought I might as well push it a bit and get Tom and Bob to sing the bridge” The final result was a song called “Handle With Care.” George later said, “I liked the song and the way that it turned out with all these people on it so much that I just carried it around in my pocket for ages thinking, Well what can I do with this thing? And the only thing to do I could think of was do another nine. Make an album.”

The album they created was called the Traveling Wilburys Volume 1—a playful nod to the reality that subsequent volumes were unlikely. Volume 1 was released in October 1988 preceded by the single “Handle With Care.” The album achieved wide critical acclaim, and most critics agreed that the music was so extraordinary because of the modest ambitions of the band, which translated to a fresh and relaxing sound. Rolling Stone Magazine instantly called it one of the Top 100 Albums of all time. The album also saw commercial success; it reached #3 on the Album charts, garnered double-platinum status and earned the group a Grammy® for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group.

In 1990, following the unexpected death of Roy Orbison in December 1988, the remaining members reconvened to record Traveling Wilburys Volume 3, dedicating the album to Lefty (Roy) Wilbury. With Harrison and Lynne producing again, both “She’s My Baby” and “Wilbury Twist” became radio hits as the album reached #11 in the U.S. and achieved Platinum success.

Track Listings:


1. Handle With Care

2. Dirty World

3. Rattled

4. Last Night

5. Not Alone Any More

6. Congratulations

7. Heading For The Light

8. Margarita

9. Tweeter And The Monkey Man

10. End Of The Line

Bonus Tracks:

11. Maxine*

12. Like A Ship*

Disc Two DVD - The True History Of The Traveling Wilburys

Music Videos:

1. Handle With Care

2. End Of The Line

3. Inside Out

4. She’s My Baby

5. Wilbury Twist


1. She’s My Baby

2. Inside Out

3. If You Belonged To Me

4. The Devil’s Been Busy

5. 7 Deadly Sins

6. Poor House

7. Where Were You Last Night?

8. Cool Dry Place

9. New Blue Moon

10. You Took My Breath Away

11. Wilbury Twist

Bonus Tracks:

12. Runaway (B-side to “She’s My Baby” UK CD and 12?)

13. Nobody’s Child (previously released on Nobody’s Child: Romanian Angel Appeal)

*previously unreleased

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My Luminaries are Ready to Release

Dust off your wallets

Christine Albrecht

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Dust out your wallets - My Luminaries' CD release is in 21 days. The full length cd is set for an April 16th release. This cd will be the buzz of 2007!

Wondering what My Luminaries sound like? Here are some comparisons:

Twin Peaks with guitars...

In places it's like The Arcade Fire if they’d been inspired by a series of weddings rather than funerals. Elsewhere, Pavement on amphetamines...

The Knack being produced by Brian Eno...

The anthemic moroseness of Radiohead, blended with The Libertines' ragged urchin spirit and a dash of Arcade Fire quirkiness. The results are powerful and uplifting, but also, crucially, original and a little different to anything else out there at the moment...

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To Purchase The Outsider Steps Inside

Feeling a bit progressive? Book My Luminaries by contacting

(ML Photographer Chris Owens)

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Eric Clapton, Guitar Hero - Mar 27, 2007 @ GM Place

By: Terry Lowe

Eric Clapton is a living legend, and that is reason enough to go and see him, even if his work has been a bit lacklustre in recent years. Christine told me that the show was sold out (15,000 people, I was told later), but a ticket had been set aside for a SwankTrendz reviewer. I claimed that ticket and found my way inside with 10 minutes to spare.

I knew the show was to start at 8:30 PM, and was being presented by House Of Blues. The place was jammed with people, some of whom were young classic rock fans, but most middle-aged (with kids). I saw a brisk trade in $60 T-shirts at the concession stands. “Okay, it's going to one of those shows,” I thought: one that begins exactly on time – which I like – and ends exactly on time, and will probably be a tightly scripted crowd-pleaser.

I was right about that, but enjoyed it nevertheless. Good band, and a good seat, on the aisle 16 rows up from the front left corner of the stage. And very close to a big video projection screen, which came in handy for those close-up details.

Mr Clapton and the band appeared on stage at 8:35, picked up their guitars and launched into a succession of 1970s Derek and the Dominoes hits: “Tell The Truth”, “Key To The Highway”, and “Got To Get Better In a Little While.” EC appeared relaxed and casual, wearing a dark grey short-sleeved shirt, jeans, suede deck shoes, and a few days’ worth of grey stubble. He played his signature black Stratocaster throughout.


The band included a solid rhythm guitarist, a rocking bass / drum team, one organist and one electric pianist, and two lovely buxom backup singers who swayed in unison, and who were given chairs so they could rest during the “Shut up and play yer guitar” bits, of which there were many.

The sound quality was surprisingly good, given that the venue is a small stadium designed to host hockey games. I could hear everything clearly, and the mix was excellent.

When they launched into “Little Wing,” out came the cigarette lighters, held up aflame. Certainly not as many as there would have thirty years ago, but it certainly took me back. There was a lot of smoke in the air, and the noticeable smell of marijuana now and then.

That piece drew a semi-standing ovation; this crowd was clearly there to be pleased. “I Shot The Sheriff” drew another one, but what I noticed during EC’s extended improvised solo was that he still has it: his playing is astonishingly good, and very fluid. The camera operators gave us many close-up of the legendary Slowhand bending strings and dancing across the frets. He’s a magician with that guitar.

A refreshing sit-down acoustic set followed, with EC playing a solo six-string first, then joined by the remainder of the band, with the drummer playing a box that he was sitting on. This set included some songs unknown to me, although if the set list from last night's show in Seattle that I found on matches tonight’s (and so far, it has), those would be “Driftin” and “Outside Woman Blues” by blues legend Robert Johnson. Followed by “Nobody Loves You When You're Down and Out” and “Running On Faith,” during which the rhythm guitarist picked up his Strat, and the volume was turned up, and the stools cleared away.

A blazing version of “Motherless Children” followed, and to me, that was the highlight of the night. Inspired playing; and from there on it was just Greatest Hits to the end.

First, though, they had to play an extended blues-based piece, to showcase the solo abilities of the two keyboard players, the bass player, and, yes, the drummer. Playing blues-based rock, especially in stadiums, is risky. There's always the danger of slipping into formulaic or, worse, bombastic cliches. Clapton’s band was never bombastic, but there were formulaic here: all of your favourite “big rock stunts” delivered in one piece. My attention wandered. I noticed on the close-up video screen that EC's wristwatch was set an hour ahead. I admired the swaying backup singers.

The crowd ate it up, though, and wanted more. He could do no wrong, in their view. Proof of this came next: “Wonderful Tonight,” a song I've always found maudlin and tiresome. But out came the lighters again, almost as if on cue.

And then they played “Layla.”

And the crowd went nuts. They roared and stomped. I was curious to see if they’d play the extended version, with the duelling lead guitars. They did, but first had to wait for a standing ovation to settle down halfway through. And when they finally finished, the crowd gave them another ovation.

When the stage lights died thereafter, the crowd responded by making more noise than the band had all night. They wanted that encore, and of course, they got it. The time now was 10:10 PM, and I figured it was probably going to be “Cocaine,” and I was right again. They turned that into another Big Stadium Rock number (extended version), EC playing a white Strat this time. I figured that was probably it, so grabbed my coat and took off. Never could stand that song.

It’s a curious phenomenom, this adulation of 1970s music, often by people who weren't even born when it was originally released (and who thus cannot possibly appreciate its original context). Eric Clapton is known as a shy man, at times bewildered by and uncomfortable with the success his talent has brought him. Perhaps, then, he is content to deliver the seamless Greatest Hits package we saw there. The fans are certainly happy to get it.

Overall, I was glad to see him, and the band more often than not kept my interest. But that was due more to EC’s amazing playing than anything else; it would be wonderful to see him in a more relaxed setting, where he could bend our ears like he bends those strings.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

First Amendment and School News By: The Political Heretic

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1. First, this story of three sixteen year old students who were suspended for saying "vagina" during a "Vagina Monologues" reading at a school forum. High school teachers told them not to air the word since younger people might be in the audience.

Whatever merit the teachers had (and the Political Heretic doesn't believe the First Amendment's free speech clause bolsters their argument) was lost the moment they allowed a reading of the "Vagina Monologues." The word is only as inappropriate as the topic which the teachers believed fit for reading.

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2. The jury is still out on this one. Was the teacher fired because she (it is alleged) exposed her students to witchcraft beliefs and was the school district, for its part, exposing its school students to Christian beliefs? The school district's lawyer denies her allegations.

3. and then the story of Visit Matthew LaClair, who tape recorded a teacher who told his students they were going to hell if they did not believe in Jesus Christ.

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So Much for Digital Whiteboards

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Via Mike KuniavskyFirst Amendment and School News , here's an interesting toy which allows you to interactively project drawings in real-time. I know the intended audience is for kids, but this is a very cool way to make a big drawing in real-time when you don't have a whiteboard available. Just project on the wall.

This very much reminds me of a play of a Neil Gaiman book called "The Wolves in the Walls" which my wife did some digital compositing and projection work on where an After Effects animation was composited and projected onto the stage using Watchout software. The effect was to enable the actress to "draw" on the stage in real-time. Depending on the artistic skills of the actress, this toy would have been a simple replacement for this one effect. Scientific Progress does not always go "Boink", to misquote Calvin and Hobbes.

Things I Would Maybe Think to Myself While Brushing my Teeth With a Live Jellyfish Instead of a Toothbrush, if I had to do that for Some Reason By: M

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- Up yours, Colgate!

- I bet I could floss with the tentacles. I can't believe I didn't think of that until just now.

- Ahh... sweet hydrozoan.

- I wonder if Sandra ever thinks about me.

- What the fuck am I doing?!!

- I wonder if this jellyfish has reached adulthood; or if it'll maybe grow larger and more aware if I stop using it to brush my teeth. Also, is this jellyfish a dude or a chick?

- Mmmmmmm..... harbor fresh.

- I hope Pam and Jim can work something out. They're so good for each other.

- Ahhh!! Oh Jesus!!! Oh shit!! This would feel awesome if these poison tentacles weren't so stingy!!

- Vertebrates just don't get my teeth their whitest.

- Now this is a story all about how my life got flipped turned upside down and I'd like to take a minute. Just sit right there. I'll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel-Air.

- I wonder which part is the butt.

23% Stupid by: Sashi

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Not a bad IQ test, as these stuff go - kinda fun, and not too much of a time-waster.

Take the test here!

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Will Wheaton on William F***ing Shatner by Sashi

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I’m a Star Trek fan. Not a hard-core Trekkie, mind you - I certainly wouldn’t be the type of guy who would redecorate his apartment to look like the interior of a Starfleet ship, like this guy did.

But I did enjoy the franchise very much. Although if pressed, I’d say I enjoyed ST:TNG way more than the original series and all the other spin-offs since.

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Fans of ST:TNG will of course remember Ensign Wesley Crusher. Fans have long been divided over this character - you either hate him, or put up with him. But whatever you may think of the character, there is a general consensus regarding the man (or boy back then) who played him - Will Wheaton,Arguably the geek’s Celebrity Geek.

His book, Just a Geek, is to geekdom what Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch is to football-fandom.

He is also known these days as one of the blogosphere’s top uber-bloggers, who regularly writes on a variety of topics on a variety of websites, including his own at WWdN.

One recent article, posted on the SuicideGirls website, is titled “William F***ing Shatner, Part 1“. (Don’t worry, the link’s safe for work.)

“Well?” He asked.

Oh no. He’d asked me a question, and I’d missed it.

“Excuse me?” I replied.

“I said, what do you do over there?” he asked. There was a challenge in his voice.

“Oh, uh, well, I’m an acting ensign, and I sometimes pilot the ship.” Maybe he’d be impressed that I’d already logged several hours at the helm of the Enterprise D, all before the age of 16.

“Well, I’d never let a kid come onto my bridge.” He said, and walked away.

Captain James Tiberius Kirk, of the Starship Enterprise 1701, and Enterprise 1701-A, the only person in Starfleet to ever defeat the Kobiyashi Maru, the man behind the Corbomite Maneuver, the man who took the Enterprise to the Genesis planet to return Spock’s katra, the man who I had admired since I was eight years old, was immediately transformed into WILLIAM F***ING SHATNER.

I eagerly await Part 2.

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A Dream, a 38-word Story, and an Idol Spoiler By: Sashi

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A Dream

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I think I had the best dream ever last night/this morning. It had a guy who could control minds ala Prof. X, an ordinary Joe who becomes an unlikely hero when he finds he could block out the guy’s mind control attempts, and a cute girl-next-door damsel-in-distress chick.

The problem is that the more I try to remember the details of the dream, the more I’m forgetting it. By the end of the day, it will be nothing but a vague recollection of some fire and explosions.

Which is sad, cos really, I think it was the best dream I ever had.

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I read Sharon’s post on short stories, and since I like that genre, I tried to write a 50-word story.

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The crying child opened the door and ushered me in. She held the knife doused in her father’s blood. I walked into the room, witnessed the carnage. Too late, I heard the swish of the blade behind me.

Yeah, only made it up to 38 words. I think I have a short attention sp…. ooh, look, butterflies!!

An Idol upset

I like, ( I hate the Dashboard look once I’ve logged in. All those latest blog posts listed on the side, yeah, I’m sure some people would be interested in those. But I’d prefer it if it was customisable so that I won’t accidentally see information that could be regarded as spoilers and such, like who got eliminated in American Idol today!

Six Weird Things About Myself By: Sashi

Six Weird Things About Myself By: Sashi

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RULES: People who are tagged should write a blog post of 6 weird things about them as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave a comment that says ‘you are tagged’ in their comments and tell them to read your blog.

1. I keep confusing my left with my right.

When I was but a wee grasshopper, I got my my right hand scarred a little thanks to a combination of some hot cooking oil and irrepressible childish curiosity. Ever since then, I’ve used that mark on my hand to remind me of my right-hand side. This doesn’t happen as much as it did when I was younger, since instinct generally automatically guides me to the right or left as when is necessary, but if I have to consciously identify my right side or left side e.g. if someone asks me to point to the right, or to hold up my left hand, etc, there will always be a moment of hesitation while I quickly glance at my hands to see where the scar is.

2. I’m very wary of being photographed.

No, not because I’m wanted by the cops or Interpol or anything. I can’t even explain it, really. I just really, really, really, hate how I look in pictures. It’s not the looks specifically, it’s just how i appear in them. I especially hate having to wait those eternity-long seconds stuck in a pose while the camera-person is going “Ok, everyone ready? Smile, say cheese, here we go in 1… 2.. oh shoot, forgot the flash, hang on….” I can only hold a fake smile for no more than a second or 2, so by the time the camera takes the picture, what you get is a picture of me looking pissed off while trying to pretend I’m not.

3. When I go to bed, I need to be on the left.

Left, as in not only sleeping on my left side, but also on the left side of the bed. Eventually after I nod off into slumberland, I might shift unconsciously onto my right side or elsewhere, but when I get into bed, I go straight to the left corner. Otherwise, the world will stop turning and we will all be sucked into the horrendous inferno of the sun.

4. I don’t wear watches. Well, not anymore.

And nowadays, with the all-in-one cellphone models, who needs a watch? As a kid, I’ve lost quite a few watches in school or in the bus etc. I once even lost my dad’s expensive watch which he had bought in Singapore and which I had borrowed to use during an exam. That was the last time I ever wore a genuine, brand-name watch. I did wear a knock-off Tag Heuer during my college years, but when that died, I gave up wearing watches altogether. And it doesn’t help that I have small wrists either, I guess…

5. I must wash my feet before I go to sleep. MUST.

I don’t care if I’ve had my feet wrapped in waterproof, fireproof, dust-proof, germ-proof, whatever-proof material for donkey’s years - when I go to bed, my feet MUST be washed. Else, I just cannot fall asleep. Also, cue the horrendous inferno of the sun thing too.

6. I’m a non-believer who wants to believe.

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For most people, believing in God is a matter of faith. You either do, or don’t. I can’t do that. I cannot simply believe… I need to know. I’ve tried to believe, really. I don’t actually go around telling people I’m an atheist or agnostic, because truth be told, I’m not really all that proud of it. I completely understand religion’s place in the human psyche, how we all need something to believe in. Most times, I do wish I could believe in an Almighty God who looks after us with paternal love and care. But, I’ve not been able to do that. Perhaps, deep down, I’m afraid that we really are, all of us, quite alone. And that our collective beliefs, in the end, amount to nothing more than wishful thinking. And if so, believing in a higher power would be considered an escape route, a way to pretend that every hardship we suffer, every heartbreak we bear, every pain we embrace, has some meaning behind it.

Ok, that last bit got very rambly. Sorry.

Now I’m supposed to tag 6 people, eh? Time to round up the usual suspects then… (assuming they haven’t done it already).

1. Idlan?

2. Norzu?

3. Ash?

4. Eyeris?

5. Simon?

6. Pick Yin?

Personally, I don’t care whether you guys/gals take it up, although you probably should know that if you don’t do this meme, a pale Oriental kid with jet-black eyes is going to be following you around all day and night for weeks to come…

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

A Day in the Life - Educator/ pop culture writer / Concert reviewer/musician interviewer

I am an educator in my 'real world'. It's funny, but I take great pains to keep my two (or three) lives separate. When I am at work, I am a totally different person - however, bits of me will slip through.

For example, I had a 12 year old boy say something offhand that had me laughing for quite awhile. Re-writing it here will not do it justice as you'd 'had to have been there'.

There is a show on called "Pimp My Ride' about redoing vehicles so they are 'pimped out' - or, in short - fabulous!

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I had given an assignment (we are writing our life stories) and I was struggling on ways they could 'jazz' up their hard covers, (real books here!) ie: "... Add some 3-D designs, glue on some expressions you use, do something funky; make someone want to pick it up and read it...", I say in my ever so authoritarian voice.

"Oh, ... says B,you mean... like... Pimp my Autobiography'?

Well, I had to bend over, I was laughing so hard, and he says (with shock) You know that show?

'Yeah, sort of...' I mumble.

I think that was a great quip from a newly 12 year old, and it had me giggling for the rest of the day.

Now wait until I hear from parents saying... You want my child to pimp what...?'

Love those moments - love those kids!

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Delayed Appreciation Or.... How I came to admire Opus Hotel, years after all others By Christine Albrecht

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I was watching a locally produced television show at some ungodly hour in the morning (cursing my insomnia) when I happened upon a Vancouver gem. After the commentator's opening introduction (detailing a hotel designed with mock personalities in mind) I immediately sat up and thought, what rock have I been living under? Why did I not know about this hotel, when it clearly has had the world’s attention?

The hotel I am referring to is the pet friendly, 96 roomed, Opus Hotel at 322 Davie Street, in Vancouver, British Columbia.

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While watching the show (I can’t, for the life of me, remember its name) I was intrigued and impressed with the style concept of the hotel. The architect/designers (owner John deC. Evans, general manager Daniel Craig and former general manager David Curell) decided upon a ‘themed’ hotel where guests could adopt one of five personas while selecting the persona’s ‘lifestyle-inspired’ room.

For example, if you are an extremely chic, well-read, solidly ‘coupled’ pair, then Bob and Carol’s room would be a wonderful getaway/ 2nd honeymoon for you. Perhaps you are a magazine editor, impeccably, yet funkily attired and in town for a concert? Well, welcome to Opus Hotel, Susan. Feeling a bit exhibitionistic, sexual and playful? Well, Billy - here’s the room for you. Then again, you may be feeling like the urban, metrosexual, extremely fit, Mike - in town for a physician’s convention. There appears to be a lifestyle suite for everyone’s fantasy alter ego. By far, the favourite ‘personality’ room is the luxurious penthouse, Dede. Regularly scooped by the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Jessica Alba, Dede offers the ultimate in decadent pampering.

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Each of Opus’ rooms stray from the typical bed and bathroom hotel format by having decorative touches/ props to match the themed life-style. Small flourishes such as Bob Marley cds, a 42” wide-screened tv, Japanese Shoji screens, to intimacy kits make the Opus Hotel an ‘experience’ rather than an accommodation.

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Upon booking your room, you will receive an email detailing which events are occurring in Vancouver that your room’s ‘personality’ would be inclined to attend. This painstaking attention to detail has created a Vancouver buzz amongst the world’s top hotels, and various media continue promoting Opus, thus prolonging the ‘buzz’. (Check out the impressive list of magazines that Opus Hotel has been featured in.)

The ‘experience’ of staying at Opus Hotel is so memorable that it has been included in Oscar presenters’ goodie bags for the last few years.

Way to go, Vancouver. Opus Hotel make all creative Canadians proud.

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Voted 'Best of the Best' One of the World's Top 100 Hotels- Condé Nast Traveler 2005 Magazine

Voted one of the Best 500 Hotels in the World- Travel and Leisure Magazine 2006

One of Vancouver's coolest hangouts.- Wallpaper* Magazine

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Opus Hotel - 322 Davie Street Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6B 5Z6

Tel 604 642 6787 Fax 604 642 6780 Toll Free 1 866 642 6787 Email:

New release from My Luminaries By: Christine Albrecht

April 2, 2007 scheduled release

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What do you get when you combine The Icicle Works, 54-40 and U2? You get the Reading, Manchester band, My Luminaries.

I know the band’s comparison I’ve listed sounds like an odd mix, but I could hear all sorts of interesting band ‘sounds’ while listening to the track,The Outsider Steps Inside.

I enjoyed the song with one listen. I don’t know if I happened to be in the right mood for a new song, or if the song is simply that good/catchy, so you will have to judge for yourself. (And I have to admit, I was impressed with the band’s musical tastes as listed on their buzznet blog. Can’t think of a band they listed that I didn’t like.)

My Luminaries cd will be released on April 2/2007. Go to their site on myspace; download some music, and don’t forget to buy (and spread the word) as well.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Amazing Grace By: Lezah Williamson

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Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch like me...

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

Did you know that the song 'Amazing Grace' is the most recorded song in history, with over 3200 different recordings? It also happens to be the anthem of the Cherokee Nation, as it was the song that was sung on the Trail of Tears (1838-1839).

But what's the story behind the song? Why is it so powerful?

Well, you can find out all about it this week, when 'Amazing Grace: the William Wilberforce Story', opens in theatres. William Wilberforce was the man behind the anti-slave movement in Britain which, in turn, served as model for the US anti-slave movement.

Wilberforce was mentored by John Newton (1725-1807), the British son of a commander in the British merchant marine. Newton first went to sea at age 11, only to desert the service, get captured and be sold into slavery himself. Newton started as a servant to a slave-trader working out of Sierra Leone, and eventually worked his way up to become a partner in the business. One night during a great storm, Newton experienced a conversion, which lead to him writing the song 'Amazing Grace'.

And everything thing after that, as they say, is history.

Deborah Ellis By: Lezah Williamson

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Last week I was lucky enough to attend a reading by Deborah Ellis. Ellis is best known as a writer of teen fiction. Her book, 'The Breadwinner', has been recommended to me a number of times, although I'm ashamed to admit that I have yet to read it.

Ellis started off her talk with a reading from one of her more recent books, 'I Am a Taxi'. The protagonist of the novel is a Bolivian child whose parents have been imprisoned. He lives in jail with his mother and works as a 'taxi', or go-for, for other prisoners. He ends up owing someone money, and in order to get out of debt, allows himself to be taken to the jungle where he is forced to work for long hours in the cocaine trade. The children of Bolivia who work breaking down coco leaf for the cocaine industry are exposed to many chemicals, including sulphuric acid. Many become permanently disabled due to their exposure.

Ellis went on to discuss her book 'The Breadwinner', which was shortlisted for the Trillium Award in 2000, and later became the first in a trilogy, including the highly acclaimed 'Parvana's Journey', which was shortlisted for the Governor General's Award (2002). This series deals with the plight of young women in Afghanistan.

Ellis has a new book coming out soon, one that deals with children from New York City whose mothers are imprisoned in upstate New York. In order to see their mothers, these young children must endure an arduous 12 hour bus trip.

One of Ellis's earliest works, 'Looking For X', was a Governor General's Award winner.

During her talk, Ellis fielded a number of questions from the audience, and her responses were quite enlightening. She started writing at 12, but did not get published until she was 39. She is now 46, and it has just been in the last year that she was able to give up her day job as a women's shelter counsellor in Toronto, as she now makes enough money from her writing.

'The Breadwinner' is her best seller, and has been published in 19 different languages. She talked about how she still writes 'bad' books, citing the example of the novel she wrote last summer that was rejected by her publisher, in spite of her recent success.

Thematically, Ellis writes about youth who are victims of circumstance. One young man in the audience made everyone laugh by asking, "Do you ever write about anything happy?" Ellis just smiled.

I think it was as interesting listening to Ellis talk about the writing process as it was listening to her actual reading. She does a lot of research for each novel, and travels to all the different locations herself. Many of the countries that she finds herself in are ones in which she doesn't speak the language, nor is she familiar with the culture. She spoke about having to hire interpreters and guides in order to get all her information. Most of her books are fictionalized accounts that are based on real people or actual events. With that in mind, Ellis tries to be very respectful to each character.

Altogether, it was a very different kind of reading than I've been to before, and was almost more about the process than the actual works. But that, in itself, was quite fascinating.

I've added her books to my list of 'must reads'.