Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sylvia's Story By: Shane Christensen A Story of Inspiration

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There is a story circulating through various media lately that is such an inspiration that I'm sure a movie will be made to chronicle this incredible tale of human struggle and eventual triumph over adversity.

Sylvia Harris is a 40 year old African American jockey, who won her first race in December 2007. That is a rare feat in itself, but what makes this story truly remarkable is the journey along the way to realizing this achievement.

For starters, Sylvia was diagnosed as being bipolar at the age of 19, and her once stable life started to unravel shortly afterwards. Her condition would plague her throughout much of her adult life, and was debilitating to the point that she could not even care for her three children, resulting in her periodically losing custody. Occasionally she was hospitalized due to her condition, with various periods of stability following her psychotic or depressive episodes.

Obviously holding a job was difficult at best and impossible most of the time, and she ended up on welfare trying to support 3 kids as a single mom. As a final test of her will and spirit, she ended up homeless in 1999 and living in her car for a couple of months, relying on soup kitchens in order to stay alive. By this time she had given up custody of her children due to her condition, so she was completely alone and estranged from all her family as she struggled to survive.

Fortunately for her, life would turn around slowly, but she was still faced with many roadblocks and seemingly impossible odds of surviving, never mind succeeding in realizing her dream. When she was given an opportunity to work at a stable at the age of 35, she informed the owner of her desire to race. This gentleman and his wife took a chance on Sylvia and provided her the opportunity, but shortly thereafter both he and his wife passed away and the farm was shut down.

Following that setback, Sylvia ended up moving around various locations in the U.S., living wherever there was an opportunity for her to work with horses. She was fired after 3 days at one stable for not working fast enough, and laughed to herself at thinking that she was not even good enough to shovel horse manure.

But she struggled on and continued working odd jobs and travelling to where there was work, and even looked at coming to Canada for an opportunity to ride. As was typical in her unforgiving life, she encountered a roadblock due to paperwork not being filed and was turned back at the border.

A series of events led her to an opportunity to ride in Chicago on a horse that no other jockey wanted due to its arthritic knees, and this would prove to be the turning point in her riding career and life. Wildwood Pegasus would place third in the first race they ran, but ended up winning his next two after that, allowing Sylvia to realize a lifelong dream.

She is now in a place that at times seemed an impossibility, and a number of media outlets including the New York Times have run articles chronicling her incredible story, which is great to see.

Because Sylvia Harris is an inspiration and testament to the human spirit, and a person we can all be proud of, regardless of our race or gender. I cannot wait to see the movie!

Monday, January 28, 2008

James Howard Kunstler’s Long Emergency By: Terry Lowe

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James Howard Kunstler is an American writer currently employed by Rolling Stone magazine. He is the author of The Geography of Nowhere (which we reviewed here), The Long Emergency, among others. He was in town recently as a visiting Fellow of Simon Fraser University, and gave a presentation the other night. I went along to see what he has been thinking about lately.

As far as Kunstler is concerned, the building of North American suburbia was a fifty-year-long experiment that has failed because shortages of oil in the near future will quickly render them unworkable. This failure will have profound effects on the way North American society is organized, and how it should approach its future.

He stated that the world’s oil supply peaked around 1999/2000, and has been declining since. He had facts and figures (duly shown), and the US Department of Energy agrees. The USA currently uses 20 million barrels of oil every day, and this oil (by 2020 or so) will no longer be available. We’d better start thinking about what to do about that, and soon.

That I knew already; please tell me more. Okay, here’s more:

The circumstances of the Long Emergency will require us to downscale and rescale virtually everything we do and how we do it, from the kind of communities we physically inhabit to the way we grow our food to the way we work and trade the products of our work. Anything organized on the large scale, whether it is government or a corporate business enterprise such as Wal-Mart, will wither as the cheap energy props that support bigness fall away. The turbulence of the Long Emergency will produce a lot of economic losers, and many of these will be members of an angry and aggrieved former middle class.

There is No More Oil, and the Earth is not making any more. It has more urgent things to do as it tries to cope with climate change.

Kunstler did not touch on climate change, referring instead to Al Gore’s well-known work on the topic. He did, though, list a few other predictions:

As oil becomes increasingly unavailable, 30-mile commutes also become undoable. Forget living in the ’burbs and driving off to work each day: it’ll soon cost you $100 in gas each way, and become impossible thereafter.

As sub-prime mortgages continue to collapse, a suburban home will decrease in value, until it becomes a liability. This is now happening all over the USA, in places that were believed to be recession-proof as little as two years ago.

Truckloads of produce from California will not appear in your grocery stores anymore, nor will truckloads of meat from Alberta or Montana. What will you eat? And where will it come from?

Likewise, similar loads (either by truck or by ship) of cheap stuff from China will no longer be delivered to the nation’s shopping malls. What is going to replace that? Will the exurban shopping mall survive?

He spoke about the important need to rebuild (in the USA, at least) a rail system that was pretty much abandoned in the 1950s when interstate highways were built. “The infrastructure’s still there,” he said, “out rusting in the rain.”

His most interesting idea was the simultaneous need to rebuild the also largely abandoned system of inland waterways. He comes from the Hudson River Valley in New York, and has seen entire towns closed down when the shipping business transferred to trucks on the Interstates, and the local factories and mills shut down in favour of cheap stuff from China.

His main idea is that we should go back to doing things the way they were done 60 years ago, before urban landscapes were defined by freeways and commuter traffic reports on the radio. Instead think of a landscape consisting more of farms and cottage industries, connected by rail and, where possible, canals. He thinks that cities would thus be more liveable (without endless suburbs), we’d eat better, and the economy would be healthier and more realistic. It’s a simplistic idea, but I think he finds it attractive (as do I).

Our lives will become profoundly and intensely local. Daily life will be far less about mobility and much more about staying where you are.

Is it possible?

I think it is, given political will and the benefits of selected bits of modern technology. Some Northern European countries are already setting examples. Then too, I’ve also heard people claim that if we could just capture a small percentage of the energy given to us for free every day by the sun, we’d have plenty of energy. Could that be done in 10 years? Probably not. Could it be done in 20 or 25 years? Probably.

Mr. Kunstler is a practiced and engaging speaker. Rather funny, too, referring to suburbs as “asteroid belts,” and saying things like “America today has a railroad system that the Bulgarians would be ashamed of.” What he says is well worth thinking about and, I think, only slightly exaggerated.

Lawsuit Pending: By Mike Gillis

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Image from

Warning labels.

Promoting safety? Not so much.

Protecting massive companies from getting sued by opportunistic morons?


Or maybe, just maybe, people really are that stupid.

That sticker on your lawnmower that tells you not to put your hand on the spinning blade may seem kind of unnecessary. but perhaps people are practising this. Why? Who knows. They're idiots. And idiots are unpredictable.

You know when you buy new sneakers and there's that little packet of silica gel that says 'do not eat'? If it didn't say that, would you be inclined to actually try some silica gel? "Hey! my new Pro Keds came with this weird packet of granulated chemicals. I should probably eat some."

Me no think so, Tim.

But maybe it's these very warnings that are encouraging people to risk personal health and safety for that sweet sweet negligence claim.

Maybe it's human nature (or at least moron nature) to do exactly what we're told not to.

For example: let's say a bottle of window cleaner came with a warning that states 'not for use on babies'. I'd say it's only a matter of weeks before some yokel brings his or her crying but gleaming infant into the emergency ward wondering what possibly could've gone wrong.

People should know better.

Fact! People do not know better.

A bottle of motor oil that says 'poisonous. Flammable. Delicious?'.

Well... maybe it is, you know?

Only one way to find out.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go stare at the sun through a telescope while aiming fireworks at my face until those cans of forks are done in the microwave.

The Trials and Tribulations of Professor Jump Kick By: Mike Gillis

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Here is a brief list of the various Special Powers I have accumulated over the years:

- ability to erase memories (unfortunately this only works on myself and only when alcohol is present)

- unlimited jump kicks

- ability to smoke a cigarette while playing Nintendo and still win

- impervious to: alarm clocks, hot sauce, French

- ability to soar horizontally through the air (only for short bursts and without the ability to land)

- unlimited Simpson's references

- conjure invisible air guitar

- can hide a Canadian quarter in my right nostril

- third degree black belt in making girls feel weird

- ability to drop a "That's what she said" after absolutely any statement made about anything at any time

- advanced barbecue wizardry

- conjure awkward silence

- inability to perform reverse psychology

- spontaneous uncontrollable sneeze attacks

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Skin Cream That Works! No. 7 Restore and Renew By Lezah Williamson

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It was back in about October that I read a bunch of articles about this new miraculous anti-wrinkle cream that was being sold at Boots Pharmacy in Britain. Now, in case you're not familiar with Boots, its not a high end place - in fact, it's pretty run of the mill. But apparently there had been a big (and, more importantly, independent!) BBC documentary on Boots' No. 7 Restore & Renew Night Cream. It was said that the cream was an anti-wrinkle miracle salve.

This started what amounted to almost a firestorm - Boots in Britain had a hard time keeping the product on the shelves, it was selling out so fast, and when the announcement was made in Canada that Shopper's Drug Mart would soon be importing this new product, they very quickly had long waiting lists for the new product, months before it actually arrived in the country.

I don't have too many wrinkles, fortunately - thank God for good genes! But I decided to try this new cream out.

I put my name on the waiting list and spent more than a month waiting until I got the call.

Within a week, I was startled to notice results. I tend to be very skeptical about things like this, and so when I did notice the results, to say I was floored would have been an understatement. Especially since the results were not necessarily the ones that were touted by the various articles I had read. You see, as I mentioned previously, I'm not all that wrinkly (yet!) so cannot honestly say that the cream changed my skin in any way, wrinkle-wise. Where I did notice a difference, however, was in pore size.

Sadly, although I have been blessed with few wrinkles, the cross I have to bear is large pores. No. 7 Restore & Renew actually reduced the size of the pores significantly - most noticeably on my cheeks, oddly enough. I don't know that I can say the same for the pores on my nose (too much information, perhaps?).

The container I bought was supposed to be one month's worth; in fact, it lasted for more than two months. Perhaps I should have put more product on, but I didn't feel the need. Maybe if I had, I would have noticed even more of a difference.

So, for those skeptics out there: it works.

Shopping at the I and F By Lezah Williamson

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I don't usually frequent chain stores in malls, so when I HAD to go to the mall at Christmas time, I turned my nose up at the latest store that had landed there.

However, once the hustle and bustle of Christmas had died down, we returned to the mall to make some exchanges, and I took a moment to look at the latest retailer to grace Willowbrook Mall, I & F. The window display didn't thrill me, but the displays just inside the store were fantastic. I was drawn in.

Wandering around the store, which features both men's and women's fashions, I saw many items that struck my fancy. I usually hate trying on clothes, opting instead to make an educated guess and just buy - but here I tried on, since the items were so 'fashion forward' that I had no reference point for fit.

As it turned out, I ended up buying a few items. They were all very reasonably priced - around the H & M price point - and everything I bought was by Isaac Mizrahi.

Which got me thinking... maybe this was his store?

I did a bit of research, and learned that in the States, Mizrahi does a line for Target. He was somewhat shunned by the fashion community for this move (apparently), but now more designers are following his lead...

Anyway, if you are in the Langley area, check out I & F. Great clothes at great prices - what more could you ask for?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

SEX!!! By: Shane Christensen

Article Contains Graphic Sexual Content

AHA!!! Gotcha! You just proved a point that we’ve all known since time began. Nothing grabs peoples’ attention like the topic of SEX does. All you have to do is look around anywhere, and there is no escaping the constant barrage of media images that have some type of sex theme to them. Because it’s no secret that sex sells.

This article is actually my attempt to prove this, because I’m sure that by the end of the month, I’ll have my editor emailing me the site stats and this one will place in the top read articles list, simply because the title grabs peoples’ attention like nothing else. And if it doesn’t, I guess have some ‘splaining to do.

But enough of all that, as the real purpose of this article is to highlight a lady that has dedicated her professional life to the topic of sex and all it encompasses. No, it’s not a madam or lady of the night. I’m referring to , a registered nurse and of some 30 odd years, who has written 3 books on the topic as well as hosting a very popular radio sex show, and also a TV show that is aired here in Canada, and another one in the U.S.

This gal has even been a repeat fixture on Lettermen, and can brag that she’s one of the few people that has no problem at all getting Dave to blush.

And the reason for this is that Sue is a sweet looking older woman who reminds you of your mother or grandmother, depending on your age. And we don’t necessarily like to think of mom or grandma having ANYTHING at all to do with sex. But in Ms. Johansen’s case, she has created a virtual industry over the many years (decades) of providing a service that is obviously very much in demand, and of great interest to so many of us. In fact, Sue has been so successful, she actually received the Order of Canada in 2001, which speaks volumes about her many accomplishments.

And while the thought of a nice ol’ granny speaking graphically about sexual issues might seem comical and humorous, in reality her shows are so informative and insightful that she has garnered a huge loyal audience both here in Canada and now in the U.S. where she has a weekly audience of over 4 million viewers. A lot of this can be attributed to her personality and demeanour which is very laid back, and also because both shows offer the audience the chance to call in and ask questions or make comments. And there is no fear on the callers’ part, because Ms. Johansen is totally non-judgmental of anything and everything. She doesn’t scold viewers or belittle them for asking silly questions, because in regards to sex, there are no silly or wrong questions.

I think Sue Johansen has done an incredible job in bringing important information regarding birth control and sexually related topics to the living rooms of people in a manner that allows the viewer to get the pertinent information they desire, while being entertained at the same time. She is a true pioneer and innovator, and I’m delighted that she has received our country’s highest honour of personal achievement which she so obviously deserves.

If you have not had the pleasure of either listening to or watching one of Sue’s programs, I would definitely suggest you check out the Sunday Night Sex Show on the Women’s Television Network or Sex TV. In the U.S., Talk Sex with Sue Johansen can be viewed on the Oxygen Network. Sue also writes a weekly column that can be found in the health section of the Toronto Star, Canada’s biggest daily newspaper, and as I mentioned earlier she occasionally hangs with Lettermen, and that’s ALWAYS a sight to behold.

If you’d like to find out more information about Sue Johansen and/or her shows, books, or even sex toys, simply google her name and you’ll be amazed at everything this true original has accomplished. Way to go Sue!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Danny Echo By: Shane Christensen

Upon the initial few seconds of listening to up and coming Vancouver powerpop/alt-rock band Danny Echo, I was immediately struck by the amazing vocal similarities to a young McCartney, or even Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze fame.

And in many respects that should come as no surprise really, as the band unashamedly lists their musical influences from that great era when the classic Brit bands of the day, from the Beatles to the Stones and everything in between, were ruling the musical world.

And you can hear a lot of these influences on the Danny Echo myspace site that contains the five songs from their current E.P., soon to be followed by a full length c.d.

My personal favourite is the song Things I Never Had, which includes a killer horn section and a groove that takes the listener back to the Brown Sugar/ Sticky Fingers period when Mick and the boys were at the top of their game. Ah, those were the days.

So if your musical tastes are similar to mine, but you want to hear a fresh and energetic NEW band as opposed to the same old stuff you’ve been listening to for…how long now? Am I really that old?

Check out Danny Echo’s myspace site at:

Oh, and Danny? Great pipes man!!!


Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Top Ten Albums of All Time By: Shane Christensen

Far off the beaten path...

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Read Shane’s follow up article, Top Canadian Albums.

I have always felt that I had an above average knowledge of popular music, and regularly got my kicks at always being the guy who knew all the answers to those obscure questions you’d sometimes get from people. So at social functions, I was the “go to” guy for any tidbits of musical information someone needed to know to win a bet, or just to prove to someone that they were right about something.

I wore this personal badge of honour proudly, albeit with total humility I might add, and took great personal satisfaction at being such a smarty pants. But every gunslinger meets his/her match, and mine came in the form of a good friend/ fellow drummer (and an extremely good drummer) who amazes me with his musical knowledge.

Amazes me so much, that when it came time to compile my choice for the top ten rock albums of all time, I immediately knew that I had to get my friend, Chris, to give me his thumbs up before I submitted them to Swanktrendz, lest I completely embarrass myself once again.

Method to my madness - if I get universal condemnation from the readership, I can merely point to my pal Mr. Bryen and lament,“Well he said it looked all right, and he’s the man!” Yes, 'true' friends. I can be a real conniving bastard at times.

Anyway, back to the task at hand. I have always wanted to compile a list of the top albums for years, and after many conversations with musically minded friends; discussing the necessary criterion for a piece of work to be considered as the 'best'; I finally have a list that I feel comfortable with.

The criteria for making this list is as follows:

1.) Album must have been critically and/or commercially successful

2.) Must have innovative qualities that changed popular music

3.) Musicianship is so good, it can not be denied as being truly
'exceptional' and 'extraordinary'.

So, without any further delay. My top ten albums of all time.

1.) Revolver The Beatles

This masterpiece of diversity and innovation gave birth to progressive rock and set the standard for true, musical brilliance that these lads had in abundance. R.I.P. John Lennon and George Harrison

2.) Are You Experienced Jimi Hendrix Experience

Jimi was to hard rock what the Beatles were to progressive rock. This album was revolutionary at the time, and so much so that it still stands the test of time. R.I.P. Jimi Hendrix and Noel Redding

3.) Led Zeppelin IV Led Zeppelin

This album would set the standard for rock/hard rock music for the ‘70s and beyond. It’s not my personal favourite Zep work, but it still remains one of the most popular albums of all time. Oh, and by the way. Most critics hated it just as they hated Zeppelin for being a rip off band (Whole Lotta Love-Willie Dixon), and that is why this work doesn’t meet all criterion. But who cares? This album is an absolute monster. R.I.P. John Henry Bonham

4.) Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band The Beatles

Revolver opened up the door of progressive rock, and this album took it to the moon. A perfect body of work in every way, and one of (if not the most) the most influential albums of all time.

5.) Dark Side Of The Moon Pink Floyd

This is another example of Pepper’s-like perfection. The artwork. Packaging. Oh, and I nearly forgot! The music. It still sounds fresh and relevant 35 years later. R.I.P. Syd Barrett

6.) The Joshua Tree U2

Not only was this album commercially and critically successful, it was the most innovative of it’s time. Even to a die-hard fan like myself, I was confused the first couple of listens as it was so different from any contemporary work. But it definitely grows on you.

7.) Boston Boston

This is where I can hear the groans from some of the readership, but think about it for a minute. I remember when this album came out, and it was a monster for a year or longer. Musically, it was as close to perfection as you could possibly get, thanks to Tom Scholtz and his manic determination to “get it right.” R.I.P. Brad Delp

8.) Nevermind Nirvana

Many times in musical history, one album stands out from the collective pack. This is that album. There were a lot of similar bands from the Seattle scene, but Nirvana kicked the grunge door wide open with ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, and set the standard for the rest of the decade. R.I.P. Kurt Cobain

9.) Never Mind The Bollocks The Sex Pistols

Oh, oh! Is that more groaning I hear? Again, let’s look back at the time and think about what these silly little buggers did. There were a lot of punk bands all over the place, but this band is regarded by many as “the definitive English punk band” (BBC) and is credited with kick-starting the movement in Britain. I think they might have even killed Disco! R.I.P. Sid Vicious

10.) Saturday Night Fever The Bee Gees

Okay!!! Stop laughing so hard. I know you’re shaking your collective heads and relishing in the fact that I’ve obviously lost it for real this time. But again, I ask you to consider what a profound impact this album had when it was released. I remember clearly as a hard rock disciple that simply loathed the shallowness and superficial qualities of the Disco era. And I remember clearly that these guys were responsible for it. But whether anyone likes it or not, this album was a masterpiece and was very influential and successful. I know many will argue that it is not entirely a Bee Gee’s record, but who’s kidding who here? This was their baby. R.I.P. Maurice Gibb

As a footnote, I’d just to say that I hope you find this list insightful, interesting, and even entertaining. For all the great bands and artists that didn’t make the list but gave us years of great music. Thanks! And for those artists that have left us, you will not be forgotten as you’re still a big part of our daily lives and give much substance and pleasure to it.

Review of the Movie Sicko by Shane Christensen

The other night I sat down to watch Michael Moore’s latest documentary SICKO, which takes a look at the American health care system and compares it to other socialized systems in France, Cuba, and right here in Canada.

It is a typical Moore production that mixes disturbing reality with doses of humour and American self-contemplation. But like a lot of Moore’s previous endeavours, he doesn’t hide his disgust at the state of affairs in his country in which too many times the average person gets the shaft from a cold and heartless system; usually the result of unbridled corporate greed.

He documents this with heart wrenching clarity at the beginning of the film as he introduces the audience to a once typical middle class couple that was living the American dream. They had a nice home and comfortable lifestyle, and raised a few kids along the way. But then they both got sick and ended up losing everything in the process of trying to stay alive, and are forced to move into a small room in their daughter’s home; hence even losing their dignity. And the most shocking thing was that this couple had health insurance!

And in my humble opinion, that is the beauty of this film. I was expecting to see a number of cases relating to poor and destitute Americans who could not afford private medical insurance and therefore suffered because of this. But Moore is a master at knowing how to get the maximum effect from his work and he gets a much bigger bang for the buck by documenting a number of cases of middle-class Americans that do have health insurance coverage, but end up getting swindled by heartless and manipulative insurance corporations that will stop at nothing to save a buck, even if it means that people have to die in the process.

And as is typical in all of his previous movies, Moore takes aim at a number of politicians from both parties that sell their constituents out to the highest bidder, as they line up behind a variety of corporations that are affiliated with, or make their millions from the American health care system. Even though I consider myself a realistic kind of guy, I was shocked by the number of elected officials from both parties that line up behind these corporations to do their bidding. All for the sake of generation campaign contributions.

The saddest and most ironic part of the movie deals with the cases of a group of individuals that worked at ground zero after the 9/11 attacks. While officially there were promises that any person who suffered illness as a result of the after-effects of working in this potentially hazardous environment would be looked after, the reality was that many people were abandoned and simply discarded as they failed to qualify for treatment due to a number of technicalities of one kind or another. So being the showman that he is, Moore charters a boat and sails from Florida to the American base at Guantanamo Bay Cuba with this group of heroes, to try to get the same state of the art medical care for them that the terrorists being housed at the facility get.

Of course there was no way that that was going to happen, but in a further display of irony, his group receives free medical treatment and medicine from the Cuban health care system. The same treatment that was denied at home because these patriotic men and women who gave so graciously to their country at one of it’s darkest moments, didn’t qualify for any number of reasons.

Another typical trait of Moore’s movies is his obvious respect for Canada and our way of doing things in a much more humane way than that in America. He quickly introduces you to a few individuals who receive treatment in our health care system; a system which gets a fair deal of negative press in certain circles over wait times for operations and treatment itself. But after Moore’s examination and comparison of the two different systems, you’re left with absolutely no doubt as to which is the better of the two.

But by the time he goes to France to explore their system, I was actually getting angered and irritated by the blatant disparity that exists between what Americans receive from their health care system as compared to a number of other countries. And I felt this way because there is a lot about America that I admire and respect, and it really bothers me to see innocent people exploited in the name of a dollar, especially when it doesn’t have to be that way. And Moore proves this clearly and graphically in SICKO, while still presenting us with a film that is entertaining and even humourous at times.

But it is also very sad, because it’s obvious that Moore is a proud American who is trying to bring about real and constructive change for the betterment of the American people and nation as a whole, because he believes in the ideals that his nation was founded upon and which propelled it to the stature of world leader. And he should be praised and commended for what he does because there is nothing un-American about that at all, even if he happens to offend many of his fellow citizens by exposing blatant flaws and inequities that exist in the U.S.A.

As a footnote, I’d like to offer my thanks to Swanktrendz editor Terry Lowe who steered this writer straight about some fundamentals of writing. I submitted an initial review that was written immediately after watching this film, and the anger and emotion was still very fresh and more than obvious in the original draft. And the end result was something more of a personal rant than that of a movie review and commentary. So a lesson has been learned; DON’T WRITE MAD! Or at least make sure it's a good read if you do!

Juno movie review by Lezah Williamson

We saw Juno over the Christmas holidays. In fact, Dave liked it so much, he saw it twice.

Juno is one of those films that's many things at once - a comedy, a romance, a drama, a quirky indie-type film - and it does it all well.

I recently read an article in which Juno screenwriter and former stripper Diablo Cody was lambasted for her role in what was being portrayed as a 'new and disturbing trend' in movies promoting teen sex, which in turn, of course, leads to teen pregnancy (which, according to the writer of the article, is on the rise). All I could think, however, was: where have you been, lady? Isn't an all-consuming interest in sex at the very heart of the nature of every teen on the planet - and has been, since time began? I don't really think times have changed; nor have movies, come to think of it.

You see, Juno is more than a Superbad (let's get laid) type of comedy. It's much more thoughtful, much more introspective - despite having a very extroverted young lady as protagonist.

For Juno (played by the lovely Ellen Page) is a person who marches to the sound of her own drum, but does so in a very honourable way. Her individuality is respected by all segments of the population, and those who don't immediately like her are usually soon won over.

And the movie doesn't try to candy-coat life, either. Juno runs into people who don't like her, just because. And she experiences sadness, rejection, emotional upheaval - all the real things people go through in the real world.

Juno, the character, is a great person. Juno, the movie, is well worth seeing. And Juno, the soundtrack, is fantastic, too.

Three out of three - now that's not bad...

Top ten Canadian Albums of all Time by Shane Christensen

Read More of Shane’s Article Here.

Recently, I compiled my choices for the Top Ten Best Rock Albums of all Time, Article can be read here , and unfortunately there were no Canadian artists present. Being the true patriot that I am, I decided that that just wasn’t going to work, and felt I should do a follow up piece which would profile my top ten Canadian Rock albums of all time.

In my earliest childhood recollections, music played a pivotal part in my upbringing and would truly define my very being. And a good part of this music was homegrown, because this country has produced a great abundance of local musical talent.

Some of my earliest musical memories included artists like: Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and of course the Guess Who, as these acts were frequently played on my favourite radio station of legendary status in Toronto, 1050 CHUM. And it wasn’t fan appreciated because of Canadian Content Regulations either, as all of these acts enjoyed huge international success, especially south of the border.

And the one thing I found while writing this article, is that this list was a lot harder to compile than my previous one, and I think the reason is because I do feel a deep attachment/loyalty to our homegrown acts. I am unashamedly proud of the following artists along with those who have furthered followed in their predecessor’s footsteps, and have proven to the entire world that my Canada cradles an abundance of creativity and talent.

As in my previous article (see link above), the criterion remains the same for an album to make my Swanktrendz list.

And this is as follows:

1.) Album must have been critically and/or commercially successful

2.) Must have innovative qualities that changed the production/approach of popular music

3.) Muscian and technical work is so good, it can not possibly be denied as being exceptional

But the difference in this list is that I’m going to add a fourth criteria, as follows:

4.) Noted album must have had a profound impact on the Canadian music industry

My choices for the top ten Canadian albums of all time are:

1.) Harvest Neil Young

Neil had already achieved notable success in the U.S. with Buffalo Springfield and CSNY, but this album was an enormous critical and commercial success that put him on the map as a solo artist, and as being uniquely Canadian, at that. I always felt that our music is a reflection of our national conscience, heart, and soul. Neil embodies all of that - and so throughly, he continues this Canadiana embodiment right through to the present day. He is our national treasure of whom we are all proud.

2.) Court and Spark Joni Mitchell

Many fans and critics would have picked the album Blue, but I’ve always preferred this offering. With smash hits such as Help Me and Free Man In Paris, this work firmly entrenched Joni as one of the greatest musical acts of the day. Even Jimi Page and Robert Plant were huge fans, and their classic song Going To California is believed to be penned for or about her. Not bad for a beautiful lady from Saskatchewan. Her innovation and originality, as well as the fact that she was a great inspiration to a whole generation of young women, provides more than enough reason to place this album so high on my list.
(Editor’s note - I agree! Same for Town & Country)
3.) Moving Pictures Rush

Although they had achieved a fair amount of international success, it wasn’t until this album came out that Rush was looked at with the level of respect that they truly deserved. Musically, they took it to a whole new level with songs like Tom Sawyer and Red Barchetta which propelled the band’s sales to dizzying heights, especially south of the border. Without a doubt, these guys are the best technical musicians this country has ever produced, and the work on Moving Pictures was second to none.

4.) Road Apples Tragically Hip

I can still remember the first time I heard a couple of tunes off this album in a Belleville, Ontario, bar; waiting to go on with the band I was in at the time. During the intro tunes, I rushed over to the deejay to inquire, “Who the hell is that?”, then immediately went out and bought the disc the following morning. I didn’t stop listening to it for months, and it’s still in regular rotation in my house and car. Quite simply, a great album from start to finish.

5.) Self Titled Tom Cochrane and Red Rider

The first song I heard from this album was Ocean Blue, and it immediately blew me away. But shortly after hearing The Untouchable One and Boy Inside The Man, I was again off to the record store and was thrilled to find out that this was indeed one of those special albums. One of the ironies of life is that while this very strong album did well, his ’91 release Mad Mad World would garner unprecedented critical and commercial success due to the popularity of the lead single, Life Is A Highway. And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Of special note is Ken Greer’s contribution both to this band and Canadian music in general with his help in launching that band out of Kingston way back in ‘87.

6.) Fully Completely The Tragically Hip

The Hip had achieved a fair amount of success by the time their third full length album was released in ’92, and Fully Completely would propel them to their present status as probably THE number one Canadian band of all time, although many Rush fans would obviously disagree. But the Hip did what Rush never could, and that was to place itself firmly in the Canadian psyche of an unprecedented number of fans, so much so that they have undoubtedly become indelibly connected with all things Canadian.

And on Fully Completely , songs like Wheat Kings and Fifty Mission Cap brought the music production industry to a whole new level, and there it has stayed since this album’s release.

7.) American Woman The Guess Who

Driven by the huge commercial success of the title track, this album solidified The Guess Who’s position as the top Canadian band of the time. In many respects this also marked the pinnacle for the band, as although they still enjoyed commercial success after Randy Bachman’s departure, the critical and commercial level of success was never duplicated to the level they attained upon the release of this, their third album. But these guys were definitely trailblazers for Canadian music, as they paved the way for all the other Canadian acts who followed in their footsteps.

8.) Reckless Bryan Adams

Mr. Adams became a household name in Canada after the release and phenomenal success of this album back in ’84. It spawned a total of six hit singles, and included the raunchy It’s Only Love duet with the best legs on the planet, Tina Turner. He would go on to have more record breaking success in the early ‘90s with one of the biggest singles of all time, (Everything I Do) I Do It For You , which spent an astounding 4 months at #1 on the UK record charts. And he’s still maintained his nice guy personality through all the fame and fortune, which just makes it extra sweet. I guess nice guys can finish first after all. Way to go Bryan! You da man!

9.) Come On Over Shania Twain

I know some of you are immediately asking yourselves, “Isn’t this suppose to be the top Canuck rock albums list?” And that is one of the reasons for this albums placing in the top ten. Sure it’s sold over 35 million copies worldwide, and that qualifies as the biggest seller album ever by a member of the fairer sex. But when you look at the track listing, you have to really question how much of this record is country at all. Like a lot of great artists, Shania is capable of bridging and fusing musical styles and genres from song to song, and that’s a major reason for her massive appeal and success. If I ever come across a genie in a bottle, my only wish is that I should be turned into Robert “Mutt” Lange immediately. The luckiest guy on the whole planet!

10.) All The Right Reasons Nickelback

I know there is a lunatic fringe that exists that hates anything or anyone that is super-successful, regardless of whether they deserve this success or not. And Nickelback seems to be one of those bands that just doesn’t get the critical respect they deserve.

Case in point; This album has sold over 6.5 million copies in the U.S. alone, and has never been below #30 on the Billboard Top 200 for over 103 weeks. Only Shania’s Come On Over has a longer run that high on the charts, as it stayed over 123 weeks in the top 30. And it’s kind of funny that both artists get slagged or disrespected by some because of…what? I don’t understand it, ‘cause in my mind they are both great artists that have produced top quality music that millions of people enjoy. And I’m sure they both take great pleasure in that fact, and it helps to drown out the sounds of the naysayers who take ‘offense’ from their enormous accomplishments.

I happen to be very proud of what Nickelback has done as they’ve proven to Canada and rest of the world that great things come from the smallest of places…even Hanna, Alberta (population 2500). Well Done!

Welcome to the Land of Light Contributed by Terry Lowe

On a cold late-December afternoon, I went for a bike ride along the Vancouver False Creek seawall. Stopped for a smoke, looked around, and found a surprising piece of public art in front of me. A sequence of metal words, bolted to the fence between me and the sea, in both English and what appeared to be a First Nations language. I started to read, and soon found myself reaching for my notebook and pen.

This section of seawall is a promenade with separated cycling and walking paths, built as frontage for a rampart of condo towers. This area was a toxic post-industrial wasteland 20 years ago, and most of the current condo-tower infill has been built within the last five years.

This city’s red hot real estate market has led to much consumer speculation in those years, with people lining up by the hundreds (if not thousands) to buy a slot in one of those towers, with no plan to actually live there, but rather sell it in a year or so at great profit. Around here there are worse strategies to make money, and many people have indeed realized great profits by riding this boom.

It does, however, lend a rather temporary feel to what’s been constructed. There are many boutique bistros and coffee outlets at ground level, but not much else. Tellingly, this particular area is becoming known as “Falsetown,” given its location on False Creek, and because there is no apparent sense of community there, apart from a transitory one built on cost per square foot and resale value.

No one I know wants to live there, but cyclists use it because it provides a car-free route from point A to point B, although it’s a route defined by convolution, and often clogged by dog walkers.

The city requires real estate developers to devote a tiny percentage of their overall budget to public art, and this is what I was seeing here:

       Greetings good you arrive here where light be under land

       Future it be now 

      Here you begin live like new

       Come to time where people talk different but good together

       If you heart mind open you receive new knowledge

       You have same like electric eye and heart mind and talk sound

       You live fast like light

       See talk be here there and everywhere at one time

       Us make this community good indeed

       You not afraid here

       Here you begin live like chief

       World same like in your hand

“You have same like electric eye?” What does this mean? Who made this? I went over to the condo developer’s office and asked. They called me the next day (people will tell you a lot if you just ask them to), and directed me to the City of Vancouver’s web site, Public Art section.

There I found that the artist’s name is Henry Tsang, that he was born in Hong Kong and raised in Vancouver, and that what I thought was a First Nations language was actually an almost extinct 19th century pidgin called Chinook Jargon.

The artist states:

Welcome to the Land of Light is a contemporary monument to the relationship between those who have lived on the False Creek waterfront and those who will arrive in the future to call this area their home. For the artist, this public art project is about the concept of home, the building of community, and with the aid of interactive fibre-based technology, the creation of a new world to experience.

“Interactive fibre-based technology?” Yes, indeed. There’s a thin ribbon of fibre-optic cable embedded in the concrete beneath the aluminum railing. If you view the piece at night, this ribbon glows and slowly changes colour.

... where light be under land ...

Here (where light be under land, where people talk different but good together) we’re still waiting for those who will arrive in the future to call this place their home. The installation of this piece that “addresses the concept of home and the building of community” on the artificial Falsetown seawall is an interesting gesture from a very clever artist.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Memorable Quotes of 2007 By: Lexidiem

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The Yale Book of Quotations is an annual list of memorable quotes that is compiled by editor Fred Shapiro, who relies on suggestions from quote-watchers, along with his own choices, and then searches databases and the 'Net to determine the popularity of the quotes.

The ten most memorable quotes of 2007 according to Shapiro are, in order, and the #1 Memorable Quote of the Year is:

1.Don't tase me, bro!Don't tase me, bro!

~ Andrew Meyer, a senior at the University of Florida, while being hauled away by campus police during a speech by Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. It was the plea heard round the world as officers removed him from a speech by Senator Kerry.

Yale Book of Quotations editor Fred Shapiro said that the quote by Meyer just before he got zapped by campus police while protesting at Senator Kerry's speech was "a symbol of pop culture success," thanks to how many times it was searched for on Google and how many T-shirts it showed up on.

2. I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don't have maps and I believe that our education like such as in South Africa and Iraq and everywhere like such as and I believe that they should our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S. or should help South Africa and should help Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future for us.~ Lauren Upton, South Carolina contestant in the Miss Teen USA contest, when asked why one-fifth of Americans cannot find the United States on a map.

3. In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country.~ Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking at Columbia University in New York.

4. That's some nappy-headed hos there.~ CBS radio personality Don Imus, referring to the Rutgers University women's basketball team.

5. I don't recall. ~ Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' repeated response to congressional questions about the firing of U.S. attorneys.

6. There's only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun and a verb and 9/11. ~ Senator Joseph Biden, referring to Republican presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani, speaking during a Democratic presidential debate.

7. I'm not going to get into a name-calling match with somebody who has a nine percent approval rating.~ Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, referring to Vice President Dick Cheney.

8. (I have) a wide stance when going to the bathroom.~ Senator Larry Craig, explaining why his foot touched the foot of an undercover police officer in the men's restroom of an airport.

9. I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that's a storybook, man.~ Senator Joseph Biden, referring to Senator Barack Obama, a rival Democratic presidential candidate.

10. I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history.~ Former President Jimmy Carter, referring to the Bush administration.

Bonus 'Perfected' Quote:

There was one truly memorable quote that was made in 2007 that I was disappointed to find had not been included in this year's edition of the book. This one came from the October 8th television broadcast of The Big Idea With Donny Deutsch on CNBC, and included a lively dialogue between the host and his guest, a well-known conservative commentator, columnist and best-selling author:

* We just want Jews to be 'perfected,' as they say. ~ Ann Coulter, who went on to explain her viewpoint that Jews ought to become Christians.

Deutsch, a practicing Jew, said he was personally offended by Coulter's remark, and she tried to defend herself.

"I don't want you being offended by this. This is what Christians consider themselves, because our testament is the continuation of your testament. You know that. So we think Jews go to heaven. I mean, [Rev. Jerry] Falwell himself said that, but you have to follow laws. Ours is 'Christ died for our sins,'" Coulter said. "We consider ourselves perfected Christians. For me to say that for you to become a Christian is to become a perfected Christian is not offensive at all."

And of course she had to mention the late Jerry Falwell... and you can see an interesting animated of him 'perfected' in this parallel posting.See the YouTube video here.

After seeing that, you might enjoy this video where Philadelphia's own Leah Kauffman, the voice behind "I Got a Crush on Obama", performs in the music video "Perfected" which is probably the best jab in Ann Coulter's ribs that I've yet seen.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Dudes: Online Interview With Calgary's Dan Vacon By: Christine Albrecht

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I happened upon The Dudes last September (2007) while I was at the Commodore Ballroom to review Hot Hot Heat’s latest gig. The Dudes opened for HHH and their high energy set immediately got my attention, as well as their stage antics and both their serious and hilarious (yet rockin’) song selections.

The Dudes are: Dan Vacon - frontman, Bob Quashnick - guitarist, Jon Hopkins - bassist and Scott Ross - Drummer. Scott Ross’s drumming and Dan’s entertaining observations and solid performance had me taking notes in order to write a quick observation which you can read here

I asked swanktrendz contributor, Shane Christensen, to quickly jot down some ‘fun, tongue-in-cheek’ questions for me to forward to The Dudes for answers. Then I proceeded to to dutifully nag/stalk the dear fellows to answer our online questions while they were busy on tour overseas. Being ever the good sport, Dan Vacon took the time to offer up some answers. Enjoy!

Dan/The Dudes: All right let’s do this thing, (finally).

Swanktrendz: You’ve made great use of the internet and seem to have garnered a loyal fan base using this medium. So my first question is borrowed/stolen from a fan who asked it on your site... What would you prefer, a great song or a great gal?

Dan/The Dudes: Strange question. A ‘perfect gal’ I suppose. Falling in love is good for about 2 perfect songs and also some medium songs. The subsequent break-up will spawn some musical gems, too.

Swanktrendz: Staying in that context, I noticed you have a lot of loyal female fans.on your myspace. Did you guys take any cues from recent (ahem) ‘boy bands’ in attracting the gals, or is your animal magnetism too much for the fairer sex to withstand?

(Also, Dan mentioned in the Vancouver show that there are no ugly girls here. True, or just major ass kissing on his part?)

Dan/The Dudes: I didn't notice we had all that many girl fans. It’s funny considering we’re ugly as sin. Girls are into moustaches I think. It’s like some sort of reverse oedipus thing. Maybe we remind our fans of that one cool uncle they had. The one that was always sneaking them highballs at family get-togethers. And yeah, I was kissing ass. I saw some ugly girls in Vancouver, but none of them were The Dudes fans.

Swanktrendz: Do you enjoy the interaction the internet allows you to have with your fans, and how do you follow up that interaction while on tour?

Dan/The Dudes: I love talking to fans on the net. I don't know what onerous means, but if it means too much trouble then no effing way. Tour diaries are getting hard to keep up with, though. I'm constantly trying to keep up, pay attention to everyone's jokes and write songs on the road and feel my different feelings at the same time. I have a few I'm sitting on. Yeah it’s hard.

Swanktrendz: You’re website is impressive both for the sheer volume of info available and for the individual band members’ input. During your live shows, the band has great interaction with the audience (as Christine had the pleasure of witnessing in Vancouver recently). Are internet/live interactions something the band naturally enjoys, (as it appears), or is it something you look at as a promotion necessity?

Dan/The Dudes:Yes ma'am (to Christine), we have a helper that takes care of our website. He can be a bit of a wanker but he's super helpful. We just got back from our first UK trip yesterday, so I'll be saying things like wanker for a while.

Rock shows are sort of like giant group dates. You can't just tuck your shirt in, bring a gal flowers and hope she'll sleep with you. You have to show her you're a real person with emotions and opinions and jokes. At first, talking to the crowd was hard. It reminded me of leaving a message on someone's answering machine. Whatever you say counts immediately and you can never take it back. Unless of course, you break into her apartment and steal the tape. But that's illegal and difficult. Just like rock and roll?...

Swanktrendz: This latest tour is taking you literally across the entire nation and overseas, and it’s very ambitious in the amount of shows played. Is this something the band encourages, or do you have the manager from hell?

Dan/The Dudes:It’s just the reality of being in a rock band. Like it or not, you've got to spread the music around. You can only be the local hero for so long before it’s like, Damn... is this all there is? We like it though. Every rock show is a gift... except the ones in Winnipeg.

Swanktrendz: You’ve been around since ’96, and toured the country extensively during the last 11 years. Do you find you have favourite parts of the country to play now and (if so) expand on that a bit if you can. (How’s the reception in the East, as opposed to the West?)

Dan/The Dudes:The Dudes do really well on the coasts and not so well in the middle. I can't really explain it. Victoria, Vancouver, Halifax are amazing. Winnipeg is a major bummer. Actually, everywhere is great... except Winnipeg. Winnipeg is an idiot. I hate Winnipeg. My favourites are Victoria, and Halifax, and home... And Toronto... and Spain... and Bayfield.

Swanktrendz: How’s the internal band chemistry during such exhaustive tours? Do you get on each other’s nerves being stuck together in cramped quarters for thousands of miles?

Dan/The Dudes: Yeah. We're pretty manic on the road. It’s all, "I love you, man" then later, "I hate your face." Rock keeps us together though generally. I could tell you 3 things I can't stand about every dude, but also 25 things I love about them. We're a good crew.

Swanktrendz: : How about egos? Scott recently won his Bucky from CBC Radio 3 for the best facial hair. Does that create any competitive ‘stache dynamic in the band, and/or is that a good thing?

Dan/The Dudes: I hate Scott for having a way more kick ass 'stache than mine. Bob, too. But my 'stache has a special message. It’s like getting a gift from an orphan who spent all his vitamin money for it. It means way more than a diamond ring or a bread maker or something from someone who can afford it. Do you know what I mean? My moustache is worth an orphans’ vitamin money.

Swanktrendz: You all seem to have a wicked sense of humour, whether it’s in the videos or at the live shows. On the longer tours, do the guys pull pranks on each other as a means of dealing with the monotony of touring great distances? Any you can share, or is that privileged info?

Dan/The Dudes: We've never been prank pullers really. We just make jokes. You get up early, half drunk still and start looking for the comedy. That's how to stay sane.

Swanktrendz: The videos for Do The Right Thing and Drop-kick Queen of the Weekend have a Foo Fighters kind of humour to them. Would you credit the Foos with having an influence on the band (musically/videos) or is it a mere coincidence? (Bob even looks like Dave Grohl).

Dan/The Dudes: Scott really likes the Foos. I think they're pretty effing good. I don't think they influenced our videos though. comedy is just important to us. to life in general. I like Richard Pryor.

Bob and I learned guitars together in high school, and we just played and played. Eventually it sounded all right. Scott cut his teeth on teen emo/punk things. I sang in the Calgary Boys Choir. That formal sort of stuff. I write the lyrics (Dan). I consult the boys, though. I say stuff like, "Is this retarded?" or, "What's funnier, she shoved bread in my face, or got red in the face?" That sort of thing.

I hope this answers everything, Christine. thanks for being patient and interested.


The Dudes latest offering is entitled Brain. Heart. Guitar.It is available in Canada and is due out in early 2008 for Europe. Click this Link to check out their music and tour schedule.

One Four Seven Recordswill be handling their UK and European release/ gigs. Swanktrendz wishes The Dudes success with the upcoming European introduction to Brain. Heart. Guitar. I am sure The Dudes will quickly attract a devote following with their entertaining show.