Saturday, September 29, 2007

And Baby Makes Twelve (or Seventeen in Another Country) By: Christine Albrecht

Visit Swanktrendz’s home Site

Barnaul, Siberia: Tatyana Khalina, 43, gave birth to her 12th child on September 26, 2007. Yahoo news reported that this mother of baby girl Nadia was stunned to hear of her daughter’s birth weight (7.75 kg, 17.1 lbs). We don't have the money for special foods so I just ate potatoes, noodles and tomatoes she answered in response to the possible causes for the child’s unusual birth weight (average baby weight is 3.2 kg, 7 lbs).

My first reaction had nothing to do with the child’s weight, but more in line with... Who the hell would go through childbirth twelve times? Didn’t she get it after experiencing the pain that accompanied her first delivery? Perhaps Tatyana's diet of starchy food impeded the sensibility area of her brain; even strengthened her threshold for pain? I understand a man’s preoccupation with cementing his DNA lineage firmly in the world, but when a family exceeds six offspring, they enter the confusing world of ‘kissing kin’ and ‘guess which one’s your sibling?’ brought forth by too many personal connections within their small community.

My thoughts strayed to America’s Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar . (If ever there was a necessity for nationwide 'suspicious' name alerts, it would be because of the moniker, Jim Bob (or any other first name that requires two identifiers).

The Duggars are infamous for their innate ability to reproduce; last count heralding 17 little Duggars into the world. Unfortunately, this couple does not possess any other newsworthy talents. Michelle and Jim-Bob are just great ...uhm, well, never mind. I shall not deliver my impressive list of reproductive colloquialisms.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I watched a documentary, about the Duggars, one year ago. (‘Watched’ meaning the car-accident-on-the-freewaytype of observation. (You know you shouldn’t be staring, but you find ithe scene disturbingly fascinating.

The Duggars are firm believers that children are gifts from God and 'good' Christians will receive God’s gifts with open arms and hearts. (I am pretty sure God was not donning Jim Bob’s pyjamas every night, giving ‘gifts’ to Michelle.) And despite Michelle’s gushing affirmations regarding the joys of motherhood (spoken as she hands off each newborn to his/her older ‘buddy’ sibling who is responsible for much of the infant's daily care) her declarations ring false. Aside from her first three children, Michelle hasn't been a real 'mother' to an infant in years. She is more a family manager; her expertise shining through as she overseers a household chore list that challenges every child labour law in the country.

I feel that this couple is in deep denial as to the true definition of 'parenting' and 'family'. This applies to the Russian couple as well. Giving birth repeatedly, does not a parent make. I cannot speak for Tatyana Khalina (or Michelle Duggar for that matter) but I can question the irresponsibility (or intent) of the men in their lives.

What man would continually keep a woman pregnant, knowing how difficult pregnancy is on womens' bodies? What sort of man impregnates his wife before she’s recovered from birthing her last babe?

During the television documentary, it became apparent that Michelle is not the sharpest tool in the shed (which makes her home-schooling boast even more alarming). And despite my original concern - seeing Michelle as a docile victim of JB’s religious birthing indoctrination - the birth of her 10th child stopped me cold. I quickly realized that Michelle Duggar was extending her continuous state of pregnancy because she enjoyed being treated 'delicately' while pregnant. Gestation meant Michelle was not expected to do anything other than indulge in an occasional nap, while the Duggar children ran the household. (The children understand the increase in responsibilities because Mother is, once again, ‘with child’. (I also wonder if the older Duggar children are embarrassed by their parents obvious sexual indulgences, just as other teenagers would be?)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

To the outside world, the Duggar’s house is clean and orderly; the family is well groomed, and the children are courteous and cooperative. The family is not reliant on social/ tax funded programs; nor are they dependent upon charity - aside from shopping at government sponsored thrift stores. The Duggars are tax-paying citizens who (undoubtedly) receive a substantial child-tax refund.

The Duggars are God-fearing folk, yet they conveniently interpret religious doctrine to excuse their irresponsible sexual behaviour. Michelle’s decision to become an career Madonna is not condoned nor respected by society. Our culture values parents who raise their children in a supportive, nurturing, civic-minded, and financially responsible environment.

It is difficult to respect a man who keeps his woman pregnant and in the kitchen, thus depriving her the opportunity to ever advance herself (as an individual) outside the home. It is time Jim-Bob gave Michelle a break from her assigned obligation to produce a baby Duggar every 15-months. It is also time for Michelle to get off of the pregnancy pampering train and acknowledge her children who exist beyond the fetal state. On a superficial note, I get a chuckle recalling how I used to complain about my efforts (and inability) to recapture my pre-baby form after birthing two children. Somehow, I doubt if Michelle will ever complain that she can’t get her pre-baby figure back, because she cannot ever remember not having a baby in- in-utero.

Menopause is going to hit Mrs. Duggar like a ton of bricks. When nature (thankfully) steps in and says ‘Okay, Michelle. It’s time to give your body a permanent rest.' That’s when the ultimate postpartum depression will set in.

A viewer of the Duggar documentary wrote (in response to another viewer’s criticism.) ... By the way, I think mom and dad Duggar are saints... Saints, for doing what? Having intercourse regularly; giving birth as a result of intercourse; and feeding/ clothing/ nurturing the offspring? This a common practise around these parts, called Parenting, NOT Sainthood

Lastly, I am wondering how 17 individuals who have been:

encouraged to grow up as numbered household workers;

designated a sibling to babysit daily for twelve or more years;

allotted identically coloured clothing to wear on predetermined days,

received an education equivalent to that of the smartest adult in the household...

are going to turn out as adults?

How are these children going to respond to an entire society willing to recognize, embrace, and encourage their individuality? We had better keep an eye out for 17 potentially best-selling "I Was a Duggar Child, and all I got was this Lousy T-Shirt" autobiographies during the next 20 years.

And a note to JB... do us all a favour and give Michelle a ‘real’ gift by keeping your PJs on.

Images from:

Baby Nadia Image:

Duggars image: allday.msnbc.msn

The link that follows this article provides some interesting insights to being a child in a large family.

Siblings from Big Families

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Say Anything’s Music Update and Note to Their Fans

Visit Swanktrendz’s home Site

Say Anything and Hellogoodbye, Young Love and Polysics will be on the first ever MySpace Music Tour presented by Extreme Style VO5. Visit myspace music tour to get all the tour dates and updates.

As well, the follow up to Say Anything is a Real Boy - In Defense of the Genre, will be in stores on October 23rd. Say Anything wants to offer you a chance to reserve an autographed copy of the new CD now and have it on your doorstep on or before October 23rd.

To hear a song from the upcoming CD visit our MySpace pageand listen to"Skinny Mean Man"

Every Tuesday until October 23rd, the band will be premiering a new song on our myspace page (as well as posting other fun stuff like buddy icons, wall paper and anything else we can think of.)

Click Here to Purchase the Pre-Order Autographed CD $13.00

Click Here to Purchase the Pre-Order Autographed CD and T-shirt Combo $20.00

One more thing, Say Anything’s video for "Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too" was just nominated for the Best Video Woodie from mtvU! If you like the video please visit here and vote for it to win. Be on the lookout for the video"Baby Girl, I’m a Blur" sometime in October!

See you this fall....

The gang from Say Anything

Photo credit: Laura Kirsch on

Plan Your Scottsdale, Arizona, Vacation With One Simple Phone call.

Visit Swanktrendz’s home Site

I have it on good authority that there is a fabulous Arizona rental property available for holidays, year around.

Actually, this authority is my youngest sister and it also means it is her place. Being her place - I trust it. Not only is it very nice , but it will be very clean as she is very particular in that department.

The two bedroom, two bathroom gated facility is close to everything (but try to rent a car to sightsee). It also has everything for the traveller who prefers to lay by the pool and occasionally work out in a gym.

The condo with garage is part of the upscale gated Venu community in north Scottsdale, with mountains on one side and all of Scottsdale and the Phoenix valley – golf, shopping, restaurants & nightlife – on the other.

Includes king-size bed, 2 twins, rollaway bed, 2 LCD TVs (1 large screen in living room, wall-mounted LCD in Master Bedroom), DVD player, balcony, 6-seat dining room and eat-in bar, fully-equipped kitchen, leather furniture and high-speed internet.

Rental includes full access to the clubhouse – wine bar & onsite chef, recreation room with games, luxury LaZ-Boy theatre for watching games & movies, beauty spa, 3000 sq ft workout facility, separate cardio facility, gaming room for big or little kids, gas barbecues, and gorgeous heated and unheated pools just outside the condo door.

Check the site for further details

Dec 23-Apr $1150/week

May, Oct-Nov 17 $ 750/week

Nov 18-Dec 22 $1000/week

Jun-Sep $ 550/week

Longer-term leases available.

Rates do not include tax (if applicable) or required cleaning fee.

Deposit upon booking; full payment 30 days prior to arrival.

SPECIAL PRICING for SUPERBOWL 2008, Phoenix Open, & BCS Championship!

Note: Until confirmed, rates are subject to change without notice.

Visit Arizona Rental Property

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Music is my religion By: Shane Christensen

Visit Swanktrendz’s home Site

Music is my religion! It burrows the depths of my soul and provides comfort and euphoria - similar to that of a holy trance. And sometimes (if I’m lucky) I’ll happen across a song that hits a part of me and causes a physical reaction. Things like goose bumps all over my skin, and hairs standing up all over my arms and neck.

Now and again, that great song will be matched with an equally impressive video that triggers the same reaction, until you are totally transfixed and amazed by the talent that went into the making of such a musical masterpiece.

The video and song that has recently been affecting me is from a very successful band that for some strange reason, gets little or no respect from critics and certain music fans. For a while there, some of these same critics thought it relevant to question the frontman's appearance, which I thought was so bloody ridiculous and shallow; it proved that media scribes will lower themselves to any level in order to secure a headline or mention.

The song Photograph by Nickelback and its accompanying video ARE a combined masterpiece because any time you have the perfect marriage between a great song and an equally great video, it is magic. Throw in the song's ability to make one reflect about his/her own life… that is a rarity in music and often followed by the names 'Lennon' or 'Dylan'.

The first time I saw the video was after purchasing Nickelback's All The Right Reasons special edition CD (also including an amazing DVD with 4 videos and a behind-the-scenes look at Nickelback on tour). I think the total price for both was $14 from my local record store. Apparently, the band isn't in it for just the money.

I find I’m always watching the video for Photograph and often watching it repeatedly. The video reaches me and touches a part of my soul because I can identify with its theme. At this stage in my life quiet introspection can be both comforting and disturbing. In my life I have experienced many joys, and some tragedies. I have felt so much love, but also much loss. All in all I hold hope for the future - that tomorrow will be a better, brighter day like the one that exists in my memory. Back to a time when life was simpler and easier. Just like in the Photograph video.

So I say bullshit to any music ‘expert’, or occasional listener, who feels it necessary to belittle the contribution that Nickelback has made (and continues to make) to the Canadian and International music scene.

And by the way Chad, the wife thinks you’re REALLY hot!

Mental Illness - The New Leprosy: An Opinion by Shane Christensen

Approaching the Mentally Ill - Time to Start a Change

Visit Swanktrendz’s home Site

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I’ve been told that I’m a funny guy, and I mean that in a 'ha ha' way. But this is not going to be a feel good article because it’s going to address an issue that is shunned by society as a whole; more than any other disease or human condition in the world.

Now don’t worry folks, it's not going to be anything too graphic or disturbing nor will it upset your day. However, this topic affects every single one of us to a certain degree.

Mental Illness.

I can hear the clicking of your computer mouse as you frantically try to navigate to ANY other site. I apologize, but I need to be the one to pull back the scab on this issue.

I happen to be a bit of an 'expert' in this area due to personal experience. I won't elaborate as my experiences involve other people, so my purpose is to merely communicate what I have observed about mental illness. I want to shed some light on the condition and alleviate any fears or misconceptions. I am not a doctor nor do I have any formal training in the field of psychiatry.

I am hoping my observations will encourage those of you who inclined to be prejudiced to re-examine your preconceptions . The number one observation I’ve made is that mentally ill people suffer more than anyone else in society. They are feared, jeered, yet they carry more fear than all of us. They are laughed at, ridiculed because of their apparent differences, yet they have no more control over these differences than I have control over my baldness. The most damaging of all is that they are EXCLUDED.

Kind of reminiscent of the lepers in biblical times, isn't it? Feared, scorned, and hated! But why? There has to be a valid reason, doesn’t there? We’ve learned throughout history they have been persecuted, killed, and exploited regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or religion. Society’s reaction makes them unique because usually a consistently persecuted group is is easily identifiable. Yet it appears they are gifted with an equal-opportunity illness.

The mentally ill walk amongst us everywhere and share our society because they WANT to live a ‘normal’ life. They don’t want to experience the pain of ostracization because they are sensitive caring human beings, who have feelings. Which identifies my second observation, that these individuals who are mocked and ridiculed by many… are not oblivious to this treatment. It hurts them.

Many of them have resigned themselves to this ritual of torment, especially after years of abuse, neglect, and exploitation. This feigned coping doesn’t mean they like it, they’re ‘stupid’ or ‘dumb’.

Which leads to my final observation - we can never assume that a mentally ill person lacks intelligence. The movie ‘A Beautiful Mind’ presented this awareness with amazing clarity. It is also a known FACT that many of society’s more enlightened minds have suffered with one type of mental illness or another. (Remember that expression, There's a fine line between genius and insanity?)

What we fear is the unknown of the illness and unpredictability of the sufferers because they look and sometimes act differently than 'us'. And what are the chances they may be... dangerous? Well, that is true and could also be said of every human being that ever walked the planet - no matter what their state of mind. We all have the potential to do something dangerous. (Reading the daily news attests to that.)

So the next time you’re walking around your city (as it’s everywhere), and you spy a person, on a pleasant afternoon, who appears slightly dishevelled or unkempt and he or she is holding out a spare change cup. Use personal safety discretion and perhaps drop in some change that’s been jangling in your pocket. The recipient will be appreciative of the kindness you extend, even though they may not show it in the conventional fashion.

And allow them the one thing we all ALL need more than money or charity - empathy and compassion from their fellow human beings. Unfortunately, that seems to be a diminishing quality in today's’ fast paced modern world, but a change in attitude could start with you.

image from http://brainblogger.elise stobb and

Hot Hot Heat with The Dudes By: Christine Albrecht

Commodore Ballroom, September 18 2007, Medium Capacity

Visit Swanktrendz’s home Site

I reluctantly attended a concert at the Commodore Ballroom, Tuesday evening. Hot Hot Heat were headlining and I felt they were due a ‘Catching up with...’ piece since they just released their fifth cd Happiness Ltd. which is charting well. I am pleased that I talked myself out of an early bedtime because I was introduced to a band who is earmarked for my Best of 2007 list.

The Dudes commanded my attention immediately. I arrived just as they were ending Love is Dangerous and as they strummed the opening to Fist I thought - this is good. The band had clearly been around the music gig block a few times based upon: a) water consumption b) not dressed to impress singer actually dressed like an 80’s Bruce Springsteen c) excellent inter band communication (slight nods, raised eyebrows were understood immediately).

The Dudes are well known in their hometown of Calgary, and their act as garnered write-ups for their amusing and radio-friendly music. (And please don’t confuse them with the Texas/Louisiana Blues Soulbilly band of the same name.)

Drummer (Scott Ross) stole the show with his energetic - bouncing a foot off his stool - focused and driven hard beats. He relied primarily on bassist, Jon Hopkins, for most of his lead ins. His timing was impressive for a sans click track drummer (click tracks are a necessary tool for many drummers). Singer Dan Vacon and guitarist Bob Quashnick rounded out the remaining The Dudes and they came across as seasoned, amiable and humorous. Vacon kept us entertained with song anecdotes and occasional crowd recognition (always a pleaser). I started laughing as they played tongue-in-cheek Drop-kick Queen of the Week” dedicated to all the ugly girls, quickly adding that Vancouver ‘didn’t have any’. All of their songs were both lyrically and musically interesting. There was only one exception - one song began with a riff straight from Heart’s Barracuda so similiar that I thought Vacon was going to launch into a cover.

Hot Hot Heat mounted the stage at exactly 11:00. Normally Steve Bays et el would have knocked the opening act out of the ballpark. Not tonight. Steve was using a wireless mic and I am wondering if he is still is, after tonight’s abysmal set? This is the third time I have seen Hot Hot Heat and I know, firsthand, what a powerful voice Bays has. The sound system did not do him (or Hot Hot Heat) justice. Steve was aware the sound was off and his vocals were non existant, but aside from gesturing with annoyance to bring the level up, he didn’t force/fix the issue. By the sixth song, I had had enough of Hot Hot Heat’s ‘Instrumental’. I caught a glimpse of Bruce Allen (Canada’s music ‘bigwig’ who’s known for his abrasive personality) and wondered what his opinion of the concert was.

Overall, my summation of Hot Hot Heat’s performance would be in synch with the band member’s attitudes: Steve Bays annoyed, Paul Hawley distracted, Dustin Hawthorne disinterested Luke Paquin withdrawn.

Hot Hot Heat 3/10, The Dudes 9/10

CBC’s Country Canada (Satellite Station) will be showing concert footage of The Dudes on October 3rd, 2007.

Skinny Bitch - Book Review By: Janessa Lowrey

Uncle Sam’s Vegans Want You!

Visit Swanktrendz’s home Site

The New York Times has Skinny Bitch, by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, ranked as number one on their ‘Paperback Advice’ Best-seller list.

Well then, If the N.Y.T. says it’s so, it must be. As I began to read Skinny Bitch I realized

a) this has nothing to do with aspiring to be very thin

b) this is not a diet book, but rather a lifestyle choice and

c) the authors assume the average overweight American woman uses expletives for every other word and the authors write to put their readers at ease.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

My opinion? Definitely a waste of time (but a quick and easy read = minimal time wasted). My wallet is also $10.00 lighter and I am thrilled it wasn’t only available in hard cover.

Here are my summations of various parts of the book. If this list helps warn you away from the tripe between the covers of Skinny Bitch, then my job is done.

I have grouped the commentaries into four categories:

Overall Tone of the Book

• The title is merely to get your attention - it is not about being ‘skinny’ and give your head a shake if you were actually keen on becoming ‘skinny’

• They refuse to ascribe to the ‘everything in moderation rule’

• I suppose I am not an average American woman because I found the tone both crude and sanguinary, simply dancing behind the guise of ‘humour’

• Great book for overweight masochists who enjoy being belittled with every page turn

• In depth and excessively graphic details of animals tortured (Just to allow us to eat the poor things. Enough here to turn anyone off meat - so that has furthered the authors’ cause)

• PETA loves and cares for all of us (BUT only if you become vegan)

• Overweight people are pretty disgusting

• Meat eaters are moronic

• Ensure you spend thousands of dollars in only-one-in-the-city completely organic stores - so you can be thin but never rich

• If we use enough disturbing graphically written imagery, and puerile phrases you will drop meat altogether

Statistics/Authoritative Statements Bandied About as if They Were Entirely Factual

• Animals are tortured daily to feed us

• Fish probably feel pain

• Weigh scales don’t lie (Hey, sometimes they do not weigh properly (not sure of the speaking part...)

• We all are victims of a political food conspiracy

• If you eat crap, you will look like crap and feel like crap.

• A section on the dangers of diet soda and aspartame (despite being disproved by several scientific studies and the FDA has determined that aspartame is safe.) But who knows with these two groups? Perhaps we’ll give the benefit of the doubt (but ‘real’ facts would have been nice) .

• You are what you eat. (I am one badassed piece of liquorice walking about.)

• No alcohol - someone needs to make up their mind on this one

Facts That are Already Well Known, but Treated as if They Were Just Released.

• Fruit and salad (completely organic) are two things exceptionally good for you

• No white sugar, no white bread, no white pasta

• No dairy

• No caffeine, no coffee

• No cigarettes

• A lot of foods can damage your system over time

• Get lots of exercise

• Not a diet but a lifestyle

General WTF? Moments I Found Myself asking, Despite Having Just Stated I had Nothing in Common With Those Women

• You shouldn't take aspirin for menstrual cramps because your cramps are just the result of your crappy diet. As well, cramps are Nature's way of preparing you for the pain of childbirth. (Could fall under misleading stats as well)

• Some vitamins are necessary to humans and are only available in animal protein, so you'll have to take this as a supplement. What?!- After the slaughter, we’re expected to ingest this?

• The only reason you will get sick is because your diet is insane

• We are ordered to health food speciality stores, including an online health food store who imports from China - I guess the concern about China’s food imports is not an issue for anyone overweight?

• Hello?! Chemicals are chemicals! Processed vegan food can be as bad as your average processed foods.

For a well written diet/ life-style book, read: "The Six-Pack Diet Plan" by Rehan Jalali. Far better than this one.

I started laughing when I found an online editorial regarding Skinny Bitch authors. Remember when Fundamental Christians were pulling their children out of the Public School System because New Agers had infiltrated the system? The New Agers were placing homosexual themed books into libraries, and teachers were teaching the practises of Harry Potter’s witchcraft? Yep - we were going to Hell in a band basket. According to this article, the New Agers are at it again with this book. So I guess there is a little Karma in the world when the Vegan authors are renounced as Pagan. (That’s right, they’re Vegan not Pagan, but who’s going to try and convince the Fundamentalists otherwise? Not me.)

Images from and

Monday, September 17, 2007

If They Can’t Stand the Heat...? By Shane Christensen

Visit Swanktrendz

Image from

I don’t know about you, but this whole global warming thing is getting out of hand. Everywhere you turn these days, you can’t avoid seeing one thing or another on the topic. Enough already! We get it. Why don’t we respond as we typically do, and just ignore the whole problem? Pretend we don’t notice the ice caps melting, or the polar bears dying. Like really, who's going to miss a bunch of big nasty carnivores who could knock your block off with a single swipe? (I can hear the seals applauding).

And as for the talk of the coastal areas flooding? We’ll make like the Dutch and build a network of dams and dikes. Because they’re already good at building these, we’ll contract the job to the Dutch. I remember being a kid and hearing that Holland was going to be completely under water one day. It didn’t happen now, did it?

That's why you have to balance the negatives with some positives. Surprisingly, there are quite a few positives on this topic. A report that came out of the U.S. (another surprise) noted that the melting of the Northwest Passage glaciers will cut future shipping costs by millions of dollars! And drilling for oil will become easier and less expensive (and there will be less bears and wildlife for the save-all-animals societies to fret over in the event of a big spill). You have to hand it to our American friends for always pointing out the positives.

The Passage is going to be a high traffic waterway in the coming years and with several countries claiming the area as ‘their own’, global warming will seem like an afterthought in the midst of superpowers sparring for oil rich territory. Can you imagine Canada and Denmark going at it? Please! Stop the madness! Oh! The humanity!

So turn that frown upside down and drop all that negative gloom and doom crap. This planet’s proven itself resilient after surviving billions of years already. Surely little ol’ insignificant creatures such as mankind aren’t capable of destroying something as vast and magnificent as an entire ecosystem including its life forms...?

And if those pesky polar bears can’t stand the heat…

Do Real Men Cry? By Shane Christensen

Visit Swanktrendz

I probably shouldn’t admit to something like this because I might receive derogatory insults hurled from the he-men/manly-men crowd.

Sometimes I’ve been known to cry. And I am never quite sure if this is normal or not.

You see, I happen to be a fairly large, muscular guy. I work out regularly and am able to lift poundages that would make the Terminator proud. I am aware my physical presence can be intimidating judging by the way fellow gym-rats step aside for me to pass. Yep I am big, muscular, and I cry.

When my beloved cat of fifteen years recently died, I was inconsolable. I gave in to the full out quivering lip and all, sobbing. I think you have the picture and let me confirm, it ain’t pretty.

Whenever I feel the urge to cry, I quickly refer to my Tough-Guys-I-Admire list and try to recall any displays of tearful emotion. Be it Hollywood or NHL - no one on my list cried/cries. (A lot of Leafs’ FANS cry but that’s understandable and a whole different article.)

And isn’t this a measure of how tough a man really is? You've seen the movies where the guy's at war, and his buddy dies in his arms, and not a tear is shed? They suck it up like ‘real men’ ‘cause crying is for little girls. And crying in public? That’s the ultimate taboo for the tough guy. I remember that during the 9/11 attacks I had to report for jury selection. I was listening to my car radio just as the Twin Towers collapsed, and I began to cry; shake with anger, and yell at God and the universe while punching my steering wheel.

As I approached the courthouse, I quickly ‘cleaned’ myself up for fear that it would be evident I’d been crying.

When I sat down and surveyed the courtroom, all I could see were red eyes and flushed faces. When His Honour dismissed us all from our responsibility ‘due to the events that had transpired’ he took off his glasses and wiped the tears from his eyes, without shame.

I’ll always remember the sense of comfort (and relief) I felt in knowing I was not the only man who had needed to cry, and it was then I realized, maybe tears weren’t a sign of weakness, after all? Perhaps having the ability to identify that there exists a time and place for all to cry is the true measure of a ‘tough guy’.

Image from

When One Thing Leads to Another By: Christine Albrecht

The Photography of Tracey Moffatt

Visit Swanktrendz’s home Site

I was watching the movie, McCabe and Mrs Miller (1971: Warren Beatty and Julie Christie) about a man building a frontier town somewhere in the North western United States. (It was actually filmed in Vancouver by Robert Altman.) One scene shows Julie Christie (the resident brothel Madam) secretly sneaking off to smoke opium (although it is not called that, or called anything for that matter.)

This is not the first time I have seen movies allude to womens’ use of opium in the 1800’s and I wondered how accurate this depiction was. As the saying goes, ‘where there’s smoke there’s fire’. I decided to research the use of opium in the United States during the 1800’s.

Wow - not only did I find pages of information, I also learned that the everyman’s drug of choice was actually called laudanum (Latin laudare, to praise) and was used in many patent medicines to relieve pain... to produce sleep... to allay irritation... Today we take Advil, whereas the Victorian citizen smoked opium or ingested a morphine tincture. Laudanum was cheaper than alcohol, (due to its pharmacological definition it was exempt from taxes) and it provided wonderful dreams.

Laudanum lost its initial appeal when people were faced with a unexpected withdrawal caused by physical dependency on the opiate. The drug soon lost public favour as its addictive properties destroyed many families and frequently caused accidental overdoses. Surprisingly, ”laudanum is still available by prescription in the United States, classified as a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act. Its most common formulation is known as "deodorized tincture of opium," (Thanks Wikipedia.)

Researching laudanum led me to the Australian artist, Tracey Moffatt. An glimpse of her art photography is available online as is a schedule for her upcoming shows. At first I was unsure if Moffatt’s art was old photographs that she had manipulated and/or added to; or if they are current photographs she has taken. From all that I have read on Tracey Moffatt, these would be current photographs that she has staged to appear historical. Quite an outstanding job - judge for yourself. Each photograph challenges one’s imagination to fill in the blanks and complete the story.

Whatever the story, Moffatt’s “Laudanum” exhibition was held in 1998 and the photographs are mesmerizing - clearly depicting the dreamlike state the laudanum smoker could achieve. The pictures also give the sense of lethargical escape, or perhaps fulfils the user’s temporary wish to escape. Some of the women are half dressed implying a courtesan status or ...

Immediately I want to know why they need to escape? Were they addicted to laudanum? How did they come into contact with the drug? Where are the photographs supposed to be staged. What is the story?

Definitely an interesting collection. One that I would have liked to have seen in person.

Tracy Moffatt is currently showing her work in Australia. Another collection I would recommend viewing is her Scarred for Life series


Images from

Saturday, September 15, 2007

12 Stones Hits a Home Run with CD - Anthem For the Underdog By: Christine Albrecht

Visit Swanktrendz

Image from 12

12 Stones are:

Paul McCoy – Vocals

Eric Weaver – Guitar

Aaron Gainer – Drums

Justin Rimer - Guitar

DJ Stange - Bass

Lisa, at Wind-up Records, sent me the CD, Anthem For the Underdog, recorded by Louisiana band, 12 Stones. Immediately, they had two strikes against them: a) I do not like their name. Is it a weight reference? Does it mean something, anything? (Yes, yes. Apparently it is a Christian religious nod to the Old Testament) and b) the first CD sent was damaged, skipping half way through the first song (sadly, it took me a couple of minutes to even recognize that the song was skipping in my car’s CD player which did not bode well for this review.)

Lisa sent a replacement CD and I gave it a couple of listens. Annoyingly, I loved the songs - to the point of verging on ‘raving’ about the band to friends. The songs Anthem for the Underdog and Arms of a Stranger are brilliant. It Was You is the first song off the CD the band is actively publicizing - but not my first choice, or even fifth...

Assuming that I had gone ‘soft’ upon listening to too many wet-behind-the-ears, keen promotional band CDs, I passed it on to Ian, my second set of ears. Looking embarrassed, he came into my office and reluctantly confessed that the CD was really, really good. How good? I enquired. Uhm, Billy Talent good. Ian and I are used to picking apart everything wrong with a CD, so this discovery was out of our comfort realm.

Ian and I continued to discuss this oddity with interest and surprise. This is the third release from a band who have done quite well, given that they have largely marketed themselves - another coup for Anthem for the Underdog is an outstanding effort. 12 Stones’ songwriting has a Nickelback sensibility - not too simplistic (nor insulting our intelligence) and it has hooks galore. One listen through and these songs stick with you like overcooked spaghetti. Sure it is formulaic, but it works! And how!

Combine: Hinder, Story of the Year, Nickelback, Three Days Grace, Billy Talent, Finger 11, and Pearl Jam; combine in a large pot and stir. Voilá - 12 Stones.

I apologize for repeating this statement in almost every CD review, but I stand by the observation that if a CD can hold at least three great songs, then it is money well spent. 12 Stones has recorded six great songs out of the eleven they chose to release.

That is beyond impressive and well worth you opening your wallet to invest in a CD (and not the itunes, please). Come on - invest in some cover art and liner notes. Support your up and coming bands.

12 Stones’ Songs Christine recommends:

Anthem for the Underdog

Broken Road


It was You

This Dark Day

Arms of a Stranger

Okay. Now, what are we going to do about their name...?

In Defense of Britney Spears An Opinion by Shane Christensen

Visit Swanktrendz

I’ll never understand the media’s mob mentality; when someone is down, the boots are a flyin’. What primitive instinct do we possess that gives us such satisfaction and comfort from observing the misery of others, especially celebrities?

Now, I’m not a Britney Spears fan by any means. I have heard her muzak (thanks to my daughter who, as a young teen, was quite fond of her) and would file her in the same category as any candy pop available for mass consumption. Much like the Monkees, but without the charisma.The staying power of these acts is generally short ‘n’ sweet. Once they’ve cranked out a couple of hits, and a straight-to-video movie, they are yesterday’s news (until they show up as a postscript on E True Hollywood Story).

Unless, of course, you’re Britney Spears. It hasn’t been an easy ride for Ms. Spears who’s endured one disaster after another. She broke up with boy-band stud Timberlake; made the obligatory bad movie; married K-Fed and morphed into a questionable mom, and impulsively shaved off her infamous golden locks. But hey, the girl is only human. We all make mistakes!

Last Sunday in Las Vegas, Britney boldly and bravely tried to launch her musical comeback to the delight of the dagger-holding critics. These pop culture pundits were spewing some truly cruel and crass ‘critiques’, ridiculing everything from her performance, to her outfit (or lack thereof), to her physical condition.

Like... wait a minute! What was everyone expecting, a reunited Led Zeppelin? (Which, incidentally, is going to happen, and man do I feel sorry for those guys ‘cause they’re way older than Britney. Psst, Robert Plant… don’t show any midriff.) But, I digress. It’s not like the public didn’t know what to expect from Spears and her limited musical repertoire.

And, not to sound like a middle-aged perv, Ms. Spears does have it ‘going on’. Some hacks were complaining about bulges here and there, but give me a break, she looks damn good for having had two kids. Hell, she looks better than most twenty-somethings who haven’t had any kids.

Sometimes I wish we could have a kinder, more gentler, media. A media who caters to the joe-publics who don’t always want to kick ‘em when they’re down. (Especially when it involves an aging, single-parent, pop princess trying to get it together.)

And Britney? Remember to hold your head high, girl, ‘cause that pendulum swings both ways.

Just ask Mariah Carey...

Coming up next. In defense of George W. Bush. No... really! I’m not kidding. Stay tuned.

Image from

Friday, September 14, 2007

Das Kapital 2007 by Shane Christensen

Image from

Yesterday (after I followed my usual morning routine of firing up the computer and kettle) I settled in to read the Eastern daily news/blues and was thrilled to read about Canada’s latest batch of billionaires. Finally, a news item to put a smile on my face.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have no ideological/anti-capitalism argument to present someone for being a billionaire. It is a major accomplishment that the vast majority of the human race will never realize. It’s impressive!!!

But after reading several bios and histories accompanying an individual or family, I was back to my cynical self; belittling their success with my ‘That’s not fair! They inherited it!' dismissive attitude.

My bone of contention - the one which stood out the most was the sheer amount of wealth these individuals had in their possession. It was mind boggling. I’m not going to name names or anything because I’m intimidated by billionaires. (They may actually have the means to make me poorer than I already am.) But, come on... does anyone need more than a billion dollars in petty cash?

A majority of the names on the list inherited their wealth, and thus, were born with the proverbial ‘silver spoon’ in their mouths. As a result of spoon placement, they merely fell into their position of living royally. Is it outrageous for the average tax paying Canadian to ask for a type of a cap, or inheritance ceiling,be attached to much money one could amass? (Within reason, so the outrageously rich do not become too upset?)

Aha - a great proposition that would garner an unprecedented number of Yay votes if we put it to a referendum worded as follows:

Once an individual’s accumulated wealth exceeds the billion dollar mark, all further accumulated monies would be redirected to a For the Greater Good petty cash account. The monies in this account would be divvied out in lottery fashion to fellow Canadians citizens in increments of, let’s say… one million dollars.

Of course there would be rules and restrictions, such as... To be a recipient of a For the Greater Good bursary, one must be a law abiding, tax paying, productive member of society who has never carried the ‘wealthy’ title. We could define a person who is ‘wealthy’ as being one whose bank account contains a million dollars.

I greatly respect the free market capitalist system and would never think of undermining it. However, unbridled greed is like bad plumbing. Too much concentration of wealth at one level is simply going to clog the pipes of free enterprise, and that's not good for anyone. Even billionaires.

Can’t we all just get along? By Shane Christensen

Over the last week I’ve read a few news items that caused me great concern.

No, it’s not global warming or the whole Iraq mess.

I’m talking about this whole Fifty Cent/Kanye West feud that has spilled over into the media and is getting nastier by the minute. It intensified with the simultaneous release of their new albums on Tuesday.

Things are so bad, Fiddy issued a communiqué stating he would walk away from the industry if he was outsold by Kanye. Gotta go…I’m off to my nearest record store to buy everything Kanye’s ever done.

And how ‘bout Kid Rock bitch slapping Tommy Lee at the MTV Awards in Vegas?

Come on guys, it’s bad enough getting publicly dumped by the same B.C. bimbo (my apologies to western readership who worship her as a goddess), but now this!!!

Can’t we all just get along?

In unrelated news, the Russian military resumed long range bomber patrols along border regions and announced the successful testing of the most powerful non-nuclear explosive in history, while Vladmir Putin effectively dissolved the Russian Government.

See, even they’re rattled over this whole Fiddy/Kanye thing!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

TOYKULT - ‘Sow Loco’ CD Review by: Shane Christensen

Visit Swanktrendz

Introducing, for your listening pleasure... Toykult !

Visit Swanktrendz

Toykult is an interesting indie band based out of Montreal, whose three members originally arrived from equally different parts of Europe.

Tom Hamlyn hails from England, and he is the kind of musician I’ve always wanted to be; the guy who can do everything. And he does everything quite well. He sings, plays guitar, writes and arranges the CD’s songs, produces and (importantly) masters the final product. Toykult is definitely Tom’s baby, and that’s okay because he has the talent to warrant this ownership.

Unlike some albums that are driven by a dominant force, Sow Loco provides a varied sound, and doesn’t hesitate to dip its toes into a wide range of musical genres. But make no mistake, this album would be found in the Alternative Rock section at your local record store. Sow Loco also provides enough songs that could be considered techno/dance/electronica which allows it to keep fresh and interesting. I love it when artists push the music industry’s labelling envelope by producing a body of work that defies singular classification. Toykult has achieved this feat.

The bass player in the band, Franck Chionna, originally came from France/Italy, and helped with the production and mastering, as did Toykult’s third member Martin Bennett. Martin is a Scotsman who is also credited with a unique mix of instrumental playing - drums, bass, and sitar.

Usually, I would list the songs on the CD and give a brief descriptive of each, but this is unecessary thanks to which provides a 90 second sample of each song . There are 5 notable tracks with one, in particular, being the gem that I’m wagering will be heard shortly on national, and alternative radio. Wonderful Lie is the kind of song that I liked immediately, and it continues to grow on me with each listen.

I look forward to my CD player’s repeated plays of Sow Loco and I am confident that my enthusiasm will be soon shared by both FM and INDIE radio listeners alike.

Visit Toykult

Monday, September 03, 2007

No it’s not you - it is really the trend. Christine Albrecht

I was clothes shopping in Army & Navy and thought I had mistakenly wandered into the maternity department. But nope - I was in the right place. It just so happens that smocked tops (or pregnancy tops) are back in style, in a ‘big way’.

My first thought when I saw this style was of my father. When I was a teen, I bought a gray, very trendy, smocked top and my father (who normally never said a word about my appearance, let alone an article of clothing) told my mother to inform me that he did not like me wearing that particular top. Why, I wondered? Apparently my father detested the colour gray, and he also felt the top made me look pregnant. (I guess he didn’t feel this was a good look for his thirteen year old daughter.) So I rarely wore the top and within six months the trend was passé.

After my futile search for something less ‘smocky’, in the aforementioned clothing store, I briefly wondered what my deceased father would think of today’s department stores bursting at the seams with all sorts of smocked tops - available for all females whether she be six or sixty. Actually, I do not need to wonder as I can imagine his look of disgust.

After my immediate response to the sea of smocks, I realized I have a bit of my father in me as well.

images from az.central

Toronto's Ill Scarlet - Something Special by Christine Albrecht

Visit Swanktrendz’s home Site

Nothing Special is a song presently being shared amongst the tweens, and is performed by Ill Scarlet

My eleven year old suggested I give it a listen after he heard it on Canada's Much Music. I trust his 'ear' and after giving it a couple of listens, I can definitely say this band has potential.

Much Music writes that the band is like the ... voltron of rock bands... pop-rock... ska... reggae... modern rock... Ill Scarlet released their full-ength CD, All Day With It, on July 10th (2007).

They will be playing The Plaza in Vancouver on September 20, 2007.

Images from

Give them a listen at their page.

Ill Scarlet

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Danny Elfman's Advice for N. C.'s School of the Arts' Graduates By Janessa Lowrey

Visit Swanktrendz’s home Site

Danny Elfman is a musician I have long admired (since his involvement in the group, Oingo Boingo). From Oingo Boingo, he went on to teach himself how to score movies and is well known for his identifiable work in Tim Burton’s movies. His ability to learn on-the-fly is what initially prompted me to follow his career (with all its twists and turns).

I recently learned that Danny had received an Honorary Doctorate from the North Carolina School of the Arts (June, 2007), and he also gave the commencement address to the school’s 2007 graduating class. I always enjoy when honorary degrees are awarded to those who rarely complete high school (Elfman being one).

After tracking down his commencement address (thanks to I felt compelled to share some of his observations and words of advice to the NCSA graduates. I especially appreciated his understanding of the differences between talent, skill and luck. Not all celebrities are as modest as Mr. Elfman when it comes to their talents and abilities. Here is a portion of Danny’s speech.

Note: I will insert an occasional explanation in italics as I have not included his full speech.

After discussing his involvement with the progression of Oingo Boingo (at the request of his older brother) he states: ... A year became five or six. Again, we busted our asses and rehearsed night and day. We got better. We built a strong following. Even got a record deal. Things are going OK. I guess I’m finally realizing my dream?

Can’t put my finger on it. Something’s still not right. Still not quite seeing “the future.”

Then a young animator doing his first feature film comes to see my band. He liked it and thought maybe I could score his film. How the hell am I going to do that? I have no training. I felt woefully inadequate. My newly acquired band skills now seemed useless for this endeavour. I came so very, very close to saying no. So, time for a big deep pause.

Remember back – all those movies I paid so much attention to (including the music)? (Danny was an avid theatre buff who loved the film compositions of Bernard Herrmann and Franz Waxman.) Combine that with what I’d picked up with the theatre troupe (Elfman was invited to join a theatre troupe when he was spotted teaching himself to play the violin while travelling France) – I developed a pretty good ear during those years.

I did learn to write down music on paper once. And I did remember all the film scores I grew up with. And so I reluctantly agreed.

The young animator kid, by the way, was Tim Burton, and the movie was PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE. I did it, and guess what happened? It jump-started a new dream and a whole new career. But that’s not the point of this story. That was a lucky break. 

So here’s the point.

Over the next 10 years, I busted my ass to learn this new craft and to my surprise, I found that every detour and dead end I had encountered in the past ended up giving me great advantages. I began incorporating all of my ethnic percussion and love of rhythm. As my teachers, I turned to a half dozen film composers that, although I didn’t know it at the time, had embedded themselves into my soul and brain. 

I drew from some of the crazy, irreverent stuff I did while banging it out in the street troupes, both French and American, and the ear training I got from transcribing those Ellington records.

And strangely, in a weird way, the “go screw yourself” attitude I got from being in a rock band paid off too, because it allowed me to be more fearless.

Even the starving years taught me to sharpen up my intuition and people skills and how to figure things out with nothing to work with. Things that proved to be really useful.

But most importantly, all those detours taught me not to lose hope from failure. One door closes, another opens up. And amazingly, in the end, nothing was wasted. All the time I thought I had lost wasn’t lost at all...

I love how Elfman can reflect and express the general idea that ‘all things happen for a reason’; (a favourite belief that I carry strictly to preserve my sanity.) I also admire that he does not once attribute his good fortune as something that he was owed/ guaranteed/ deserving of because of his innate talents (which could be easily surmised). Indeed, Elfman has reminded me that many difficult interactions, challenging and even discouraging events in one’s life merely provide one with experience and ammunition for some obscure, yet relevant, future need. Best of all, I loved the irony of an upscale Fine Arts Institute’s choice of a speaker who never learned his craft from an institution.

Image from