Saturday, February 23, 2008

Puppy Scratch Fever By: Mike Gillis

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"Dude, how was your Valentine's Day?"

"You know... It was the usual depressing shitshow that comes with being single on Valentine's Day."

"I thought you said you were going to a bar or something?"

"I did. I went to that college bar that all the freshman chicks go to. I brought a shoebox full of puppies with me."


"Yeah. Chicks love puppies. Puppies are the Lemon Gin of the animal kingdom."

"So what happened?"

"I got swarmed man. It was great. This one girl was all over me."

"What was her name?"

"I dunno. Sandra or Dawnette or something."

"Did you hook up?"


"What do you mean 'almost'?"

"Well, it was all aces at first. She was gaga for those puppies. It was pretty much a slam dunk, but then I botched it."


"I said, 'If you like these puppies you'll LOVE my bed. My sheets are made of puppies'."


"Face slapped. Puppies confiscated. Ass kicked to curb."


"I know. She must have been vegan or something."

"So... where did you get the puppies in the first place?"

"Found 'em in some dude's yard."



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Ashes to Ashes By: Lezah Williamson

For all those fans of 'Life on Mars'

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Ashes to Ashes is the next series following the enormously popular Life on Mars.

Ashes to Ashes is a time travel/police procedural show that takes place 8 years after Life on Mars. In case you aren't familiar with Life on Mars, here is a short recap: Detective Sam Tyler finds himself in a coma, but when he wakes up, he is no longer in the 21st Century, he has somehow woken up in 1973. As a modern-day by-the-book cop, he is very much at odds with the mysogynistic, slap-dash attitude of his '70s era boss and colleagues. But he tries hard to work within the system, as he feels that the key to returning to the present is somehow associated with solving the crimes he is presented with in the past.

In Ashes to Ashes, DI Alex Drake (played by Keeley Hawes), a police psychologist who has been studying the notes of DI Sam Tyler following his suicide (once he had returned to the future - you absolutely HAVE to see the final episode of this show, as it is the best hour of TV that I have ever seen!) is shot. When she wakes up, she has time travelled back to 1981. Unlike Tyler, who was alternately mystified, confused and frustrated by his predicament, Drake uses the information she has learned from Tyler's notes to help understand her situation. She comes to the conclusion that she is either one second away from life, or one second away from death.

Drake, similar to Tyler, uses the technology of the day to make contact with the future. As well, both are pursued by surreal elements in their new lives; in the case of Drake, it is a Pierrot clown (similar to the one in the David Bowie Ashes to Ashes video).

Like Life on Mars, the title of Ashes to Ashes is based on a David Bowie song. And, like 'Life on Mars', the soundtrack of the show is stellar: just in the first two episodes, featured tracks have been from artists like David Bowie, The Clash, The Stranglers, Duran Duran, Ultravox, OMD, and Roxy Music.

Reappearing from the first series are Tyler's colleagues DCI Gene Hunt (played by Philip Glenister), Chris Skelton (Marshall Lancaster), and Ray Carling (Dean Andrews). The Gene Hunt character, I might add, once again steals the show.

'Ashes to Ashes' first aired on BBC1 on February 8, 2008; so far, two episodes have been shown. The first episode had an audience of 7 million, just under 30% of all TV viewers for that day and time period. To date, it in not available for North American audiences.

Philip Glenister has gone on record to say that 'Ashes to Ashes' will run for two seasons, as did 'Life on Mars'.

Anastasia By: Lezah Williamson

Saturday, March 8 at Centennial Theatre

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My friend and I went out to dinner before the ballet, and at that time she was telling me of all the quality music, dance and drama productions that are currently being staged in North Vancouver. When we went to the ballet, what do we find in our program but yet another top offering in North Vancouver?

On Saturday, March 8 (8:00 pm) one of Canada's top companies, Ballet Jorgen, will be dancing Anastasia, the classic tale of a Russian princess. This is a production with the stamp of approval of Heritage Canada, so you can expect to see some money has been spent on sets and costumes (that'd be my guess, anyway).

For more information, call 604-984-4484, or go to Centennial Theatre.

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American Idol Ugandan Style ... War/Dance Documentary By Shane Chritensen

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This world is filled with remarkable people and inspiring tales which you can find all around you, if you look hard enough. Sure, there’s a lot of negativity and depressing stuff in the news most of the time, but today I got lucky when I came across an article that is both unique and uplifting.

I’m referring to the story of a fascinating new film called War/Dance, which was the winner of the 2007 Sundance Documentary Directing Award, and which is already getting serious media attention due to its subject matter.

War/Dance is an inspirational tale of a group of children from the Patongo Primary School in Uganda, who are overcoming great personal pain and trauma as survivors of civil war, and who are now given the opportunity to take part in an American-Idol styled contest in their country.

To say that this is a 'big deal' to these kids and their experiences is a huge understatement. This movie proves, beyond a doubt, that children are the same all around the world in that they need to have the chance to be kids and have fun.

The film's directors are a husband and wife team, Sean Fine and his wife Andrea Nix Fine, and they were recently blessed with the birth of their first child. But instead of letting their newest addition deter them from this undertaking, Sean continued on to the refugee camp and stayed for the duration of filming; communicating daily with Andrea, who remained at home in the U.S. while providing him ideas and suggestions from afar.

One of the most profound approaches the Andrea suggested was to have the children look directly into the camera as they spoke about the atrocities they had endured. Earlier attempts to simply interview them failed. These children are similar to other war survivors in that they seldom speak amongst themselves about the evils they’ve witnessed and experienced. However, by speaking directly to the camera the children felt like they were telling the world about their ordeal, and the childrens’ memories’ floodgates opened.

Another of Andrea’s ideas was to focus on existing beauty. That beauty could be seen in the natural surroundings of a gorgeous part of the world which has suffered terribly due to internal conflict. Because of this conflict, often the natural beauty of the country is overlooked. Equally poignant is the beauty of the youth who make up the story, and how they are captured on film as they’re “making the journey to a peaceful place”, as Sean puts it.

The one ingredient of this film which captured my interest immediately after I first read about it, was the importance and impact that music holds in the movie. Many of these children had never played an instrument of any kind before, but that did not deter their enthusiasm for learning in the slightest way, shape, or form. Throughout the documentary, music is the one constant that offers hope for the future and gives the participants an opportunity, they would have never have been previously allowed, to share their experiences under war conditions they’ve had to endure the majority of their young lives.

The film is the work of a non-profit production company, Shine Global, which is donating seventy per cent of the project’s profits to various Ugandan agencies which help these kids in a number of ways, including nutritional and scholarship programs for the children. There has also been an outpouring of generosity from other charitable groups after learning of War/Dance’s efforts, which has resulted in bikes and musical instruments going to Patonga, where the Fines are headed in February to debut this film to the children it stars.

War/Dance has been nominated for an Oscar, and is currently available in limited release throughout the United States, with foreign markets hopefully to follow as this is one film I am anxiously awaiting. Many people will want to see this film because it is a truly uplifting presentation; done exceptionally well judging by the acclaim it has already received.

The Fines have made a impressive name for themselves in the making of War/Dance, and have been offered the next task of producing and directing a feature documentary on the effects of addiction in the U.S., in collaboration with Joseph Califano Jr. of Columbia University. I don’t know if they can succeed in turning this story into a ‘feel-good’ film, but it will serve as a relevant and important piece to many people and to society in general.

I’m not a big watcher of awards shows, but I will definitely be rooting for Sean and Andrea on Oscar night. I hope that they achieve further and future success with their talents and abilities, which they apply in a very positive and uplifting way. As a result of Sean and Andrea’s efforts, this world is becoming a better place in the process; a noble and commendable ideal that we’d all like to ascribe to.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Top Canadian Acts of all Time By: Shane Christensen

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As in the case of my previous Top Ten Album article, I felt it was necessary to follow my Top Ten Rock Acts choices with a Top Ten Canadian Rock Acts submission. This country of ours has produced an enormous amount of the world’s top musical entertainers, and it’s only fair to give them the acknowledgement they truly deserve.

The criteria to make this list will be as follows:

1.) Their popularity was truly phenomenal
2.) Their success had staying power- no flavour of the month
3.) Trailblazers for the Canadian music scene
4.) Reached an inclusion

As with my previous article, trailblazers in the industry are held in high regard, and that is reflected in this list. I’d also like to note that album sales do factor in, which results in the exclusion of some groups (most notably The Band) which were critically acclaimed, yet only enjoyed moderate commercial success compared to the other acts on this list.

My choices for the Top Ten Canadian Rock Acts of all time are:

1.) Neil Young

There could be no possible excuse not to have Neil as my top choice, and the reasons are plentiful and have been listed before. But simply, he has been one of the most creative and authentically original acts in the world, and still maintains his Canadian demeanour. And that is so typical of this truly amazing performer that embodies all of our national character and ideals, and has had a career that is as diverse and successful as any of the top rock acts in history.

2.) Rush

Rush has always been one of those bands that you either love or hate. But enough people love them to the extent that they are the top selling rock band to come out of Canada, with over 40 million albums sold. Their career is still going strong after 34 years, with no sign of it disappearing anytime soon, and includes a handful of albums that are hard rock classics and which showcase the individual musicianship of the three members that put them in a league of their own.

3.) Bryan Adams

I was surprised in doing the research for this article just how successful Mr. Adams actually was, as he is currently second on the list of top selling Canadian acts, with only Celine Dion placing above his impressive tally of 75 million sales. But when you consider how many hit singles the guy has had throughout the years, it definitely makes sense as he had a great run of hits through the ‘80s and ‘90s, including his biggest hit Everything I Do (I Do It For You). A class act all the way, and he still maintains his nice guy personality regardless of his accomplishments

4.)Tragically Hip

The Hip is unique in Canadian music as they are undeniably one of our top rock acts, yet they have never realized any substantial international acclaim. And in some respects, that makes them even sweeter to a great number of their homegrown fan base because they still seem like they’re the same guys they were twenty years ago when they were just starting out. They have the distinction of being the top selling Canadian artist for sales in Canada, with over 25 million albums sold domestically, and they’re still going strong as they continue to release new material and remain one of the top concert draws in the country.

5.) The Guess Who

This band is definitely one of the trailblazers for the Canadian music industry as they were the first band out of the Great White North to have a number one hit in the U.S. with American Woman in 1970, and had an impressive number of top hits within their ten year run including six top ten songs. They single-handedly proved to the world that this country possessed world class talent that could compete with the successful international acts of the day from Britain and the U.S., and by doing so opened the door for all the Canadian artists that would follow in their footsteps.

6.) Shania Twain

Although Shania started off as a country act, she had undeniably crossed over into mainstream pop by the time her third album was released and started to chart impressively on the pop as well as country charts. Come On Over is the top selling album released by a female artist, and is the ninth best selling album of all time in the entire world. Twain is also one of the top selling Canadian artists of all time thanks to the success of three hugely received albums: The Woman In Me, Come On Over, and Up. Her producer/ collaborator/ husband, Robert “Mutt” Lange was already one of the most successful producers before he began to transform Shania, and their professional union would propel both of them to staggering heights that will probably never be duplicated again.

7.) Bachman Turner Overdrive

Randy Bachman would strike gold twice in his musical career after BTO caught on big time in ’74 with the success of two hit singles. Takin’ Care of Business was a top ten hit that is famous for being fanatically loved by Elvis, and You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet became their first number 1 hit in the U.S. and in most other countries around the world.

The band would chart three top ten albums in less than two years, and have a number of hits in Canada and internationally which would cement their status as one of the top Canadian bands ever.

8.) Joni Mitchell

Definitely an artist whose influence spreads throughout the musical world and transcends all genres, Joni would be an inspiration to many young women (including Madonna) who dreamed of one day performing themselves. She had a string of eight hit albums from ’69 to ’76, which is pretty well unheard of in today’s era, in any genre. She still remains one of the most influential performers in history, and recently won a Grammy for Best Instrumental Pop Performance for the song One Week Last Summer from her latest Starbuck’s offering, Shine.

9.) Gordon Lightfoot

Another performer who crosses musical genres successfully and has maintained a strong and loyal fan base, especially at home. Gord has written some of the most beautiful songs to ever have been recorded anytime/anywhere, and even had such notables as Bob Dylan refer to him as “Canada’s greatest natural resource.”
He is a very well respected member of Canada’s music royalty, and has the rare distinction of being made a Companion for The Order of Canada in 1993.

10.) Nickelback

I was flirting with the idea of not including this band on the list, basically because of the abuse I suffer at the hands of musical “associates” who bristle at my affection for them. But again, in doing the research for this article, there was no way I couldn’t include them. They’ve already sold more records than the Hip, but in less time, and their latest album is still on a record breaking charting course nearly three years after its release. They’ve had three top five albums within a five year period, and a number of top singles to boot. They’ve also won a number of awards both at home and internationally, so their success is a real and substantial one that deserves recognition and support…especially from home where it is lacking a lot of the times.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

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Top Ten Rock Acts of All Time By: Shane Christensen

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I think it’s only fitting to continue my top 10 lists with my choices for the top ten rock acts of all time. This list will again be populated with groups or individuals that meet certain criteria that separates greatness from everything else that follows.

And in my opinion, the trailblazers who had the massive initial influence on this genre, should be both respected and noted for that. Because of this, the list includes acts from the '50s, '60s, and '70s, that in some cases tend to be forgotten for exactly how much weight they actually possessed when they were still “relevant”. I say that with tongue planted firmly in cheek as I believe they are and will remain relevant forever because of their accomplishments, influences, and immense talents.

So what makes an artist truly extraordinary so that they should be considered the best of all time?

1.) Their talent initiated or changed the musical direction of the day.

2.) Their popularity was truly phenomenal

3.) They are still looked upon with reverence by today’s fans/critics

4.) Their success had staying power and could not be characterized as the flavour of the month

My choices for the top ten rock acts of all time are as follows:

1.) The Beatles

No surprise here, and if there is then I would question your age and if you have ever sincerely listened to rock music. The Beatles' success was extraordinary to the extent that they influenced generations, even after they were long gone. Many books and even movies exist that tell the amazing Beatles story, so I won’t try to do it here. But I will suggest that if you want to read the real story, start with the Beatles Anthology, as it’s written by the surviving three together, so you’re guaranteed to get substance over sensationalism. Also, the movie Backbeat is my favourite rock movie of all time, and is worth viewing if you’re interested in this band’s humble beginnings.

2.) Elvis

This was a tough one, but I have to go with influence here, and no single artist was as influential to rock music as this man. Sure, it can be argued that Chuck Berry WAS rock ‘n’ roll, and definitely more talented as a songwriter and musician. But the truth is that his success was not comparable to Presley’s, and that only the Beatles themselves would reach and surpass that level of total domination of the rock genre of the day. There is a very real reason that he is still referred to as the King of Rock, even many decades after his unfortunate passing.

3.) Led Zeppelin

This band was never loved by the rock critics as they borrowed (stole?) heavily from the old blues cats, and committed the unforgivable sin of being prickish enough not to give them their due credit and cash. But Zeppelin was undeniably the most successful and influential hard rock act of all time. They are the only band that I would dare to even put on the same level as the Beatles, and all you have to do is look at their success from ’69 to ’71 when they released four classic albums that even crossed musical genres in many cases. And instead of losing a fan base, they just kept getting bigger and bigger until they too reached that level of success that separated them from the rest of the crop. I’ve always maintained that Jimmy Page is the most underrated and under-appreciated individual in the history of rock, as he excelled at every facet of performing, including his extraordinary songwriting and production skills, to playing guitar as well as any of his peers. About the only thing he couldn’t do was sing, but we’ll forgive him for that as he’d done enough already. And besides, who needs to sing when you’ve got a guy named Robert Plant in your band.

4.) Chuck Berry

All you have to do is watch the film Hail! Hail! Rock n Roll to truly appreciate the influence of this gentleman on the rock genre. Berry influenced absolutely everybody including the Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin, AC/DC, George Thorogood, and I’m sure I could easily write another dozen names if I gave it a second or two of thought. And the reality is that this guy got screwed by the system because of his skin colour, and both his career and personal life suffered terribly because of it.

And it’s sad because he was a consummate artist as he wrote and sang his own songs, played guitar like no one else, and even did that cool little duckwalk that he’s still known for. In a perfect world, he would have been known as the King of Rock instead of Presley, but the reality is that he was a victim of both the times he lived and his own anti-establishment anger and rebelliousness that ensured career suicide and even incarceration for doing what all the other rock stars of the day were doing. Yes friends, life is not fair, and Berry is living proof of that.

5.) The Rolling Stones

This is another one of those acts that require no introduction or explanation, and are one of the rare bands that gave the Beatles a bit of competition in any real sense. They would come into their own during their glory years in the late sixties and early seventies after the other “lads” had self-destructed, producing a few all-time classic albums that propelled them to mythic proportions. Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile On Main Street were recorded during a period of great personal instability but exceptional creative drive as the band was facing financial ruin, exile from England, and possible incarceration for Keith. I’ve always said that the Stones were a great singles band, and they’re written some of the greatest songs of all-time, ranging from Satisfaction to Midnight Rambler, and many quality tracks in between. They are also one of the most influential acts in the rock genre for both their musical and personal exploits that include everything Zeppelin, Aerosmith, and Guns N Roses did or ever thought about doing while on tour, but that the Stones did first. They were the true originals, with help from the Who in many respects, for mayhem on the road.

6.) Neil Young

The man I consider our country’s greatest natural resource still maintains his relevance today and has undeniably joined the legions of rock royalty, usually reserved for those acts that have long passed. His staying power and diversity is amazing, and he possesses the exceptional talent of being able to write both incredible music AND lyrics that rival Dylan’s. A good friend of mine recently attended one of Neil’s Massey Hall shows in Toronto and said that Young is still one of the greatest artists he has ever had the pleasure to watch, and my bud Murray has seen EVERYBODY including Zeppelin, U2, and the Stones. As I’ve said many times before, Neil has made all Canadians proud, and continues to do so.

7.) Pink Floyd

In my mind, Floyd was probably neck and neck with Zeppelin for different stretches in the ‘70s, and that’s saying a lot. The album Dark Side of the Moon was as big an accomplishment as any band has ever achieved, and it was followed by Wish You Were Here which is an amazing album itself. While Animals never garnered the commercial or critical success of the other two, it remains a perennial favourite of hard-core Floyd fans and was followed by The Wall, which still remains one of the biggest double albums in rock history. Another act that still possesses a huge following that transcends age and nationality, as the Floyd has always been big in many non-English speaking countries such as Italy, Greece, and Germany.

8.) Eric Clapton

This amazing talent has had the pleasure of playing with more music royalty than probably anyone else in existence, in no part because of his name as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. The list looks something like this: Beatles, Stones, Chuck Berry, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, the Band, Roger Waters, Phil Collins, Robbie Robertson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, B.B. King. I could go on a bit longer, but you get the idea. When you get to hang with this crowd, your reputation definitely precedes you, and Mr. Clapton deserves any reputation he’s achieved as one of the true greats. He has the distinction of being inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame three times in all, for his work with Cream, the Yardbirds, and his solo output.

9.) Bob Dylan

I would not have a complete list if I did not include Robert Zimmerman. Although his commercial success doesn’t rival a lot of the others on this list, he would influence nearly all of them, especially the lads from Liverpool who changed their musical direction in ’65 because they were so blown away by Bob. The fact that he turned them onto smoking pot also had massive repercussions as that would also influence the albums Revolver and Sgt. Peppers... enormously.

And let’s not lose sight of his work, as he was very successful in his own right in the early to mid-sixties, and has maintained an impressive worldwide following that is reserved for rock royalty of his stature. He is one of the finest lyricists who brought intelligence and introspection into the rock world, especially with the classics Blowin’ In The Wind and Like A Rolling Stone. Without Dylan, we might not have had a Hendrix, Springsteen, or U2, along with a whack of others that first decided to create ‘something’ because of his magic. He is as diverse a performer as one can possibly imagine, and has played with just about everybody you can think of in the world of music.

10.) U2

This is the only post-sixties act that I would include in this exceptional list, but U2 is very much a product of that musical era as their musical influences included all of the preceding acts. This band out of Dublin accomplished something that normally we don’t see anymore, and that is to reach a level of success that has lasted decades instead of years, or months sometimes. They themselves would go on to influence “newer” bands such as Oasis or Coldplay, and have produced a catalogue that would be the envy of any rock act. The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby specifically rate as two great works, and the band is still going strong as their tours and albums continue to sell impressively. Bono has reached a personal level of non-musical achievement with his humanitarian effort to combat global suffering in the third world, and that is something he can be justifiably proud of in this age of “bling”.

Fuel Economy by: lezel Williamson

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I've been meaning to write about this for a while; Terry's recent article reminded me about it.

There are lots of advancements being made these days in automobile fuel economy; about ten years ago, for instance, a couple moved in across the road from my parents. The husband was one of the inventors of the technology that was being used to use hydrogen as a fuel for cars. After a lot of research and trial, from what I understand, this avenue hasn't really panned out - but they sure made a lot of money off of it! People are very anxious to find alternate means of power for their cars.

My friend was driving a hybrid car for work, and raving about it. Apparently it averaged about 75 miles to the gallon, or some such outrageous claim. And electric cars seem to be springing up more and more frequently. I even saw a show about some hot-rod guy who specializes in converting muscle cars into hybrids - apparently he has about a six month waiting list!


When we were down in California last year, the whole fuel-efficiency thing was definitely all the rage. Driven (pardon the pun) by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, California is trying to introduce as many hybrids and other forms of fuel-efficient and low-pollution vehicles as possible.

Obviously pollution is a bad thing, and gas is getting more and more expensive all the time. Who wouldn't want to save money and protect the environment at the same time? But one segment of the economy who don't really need to pinch the pennies is really jumping on the bandwagon, too: celebrities.

Not that long ago, Oscar nominees showed up to the awards ceremony in the biggest, most ostentatious vehicles possible. I guess showing up in the SS Destroy the Environment gave them a sense of power, or something. But today, the trend is definitely toward fuel efficient vehicles, both as an everyday vehicle and for splashy events such as the Oscars.

Train travel, which has always been strong in Europe, is on the rise. New lines and more high speed trains are added every year. One hopes that this trend will soon cross over to this side of the Atlantic.

Extras With Ricky Gervais By Lezah WIlliamson

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We just got two seasons of Ricky Gervais's latest effort, Extras, on DVD.

I loved The Office. So droll. And, as usual, the British version is much better than the American remake. Although, I've got to admit, the American version is growing on me.

But I digress: Extras is what we're on about here. And Extras it shall be.

Extras is a very, very clever show - even better than The Office - about people who are - you guessed it - extras. Or 'background artists', as some of them prefer to be called.

Ricky Gervais is an extra who considers himself a 'real actor' - he just does the extra work to pay the bills. He's got a script that he's written that's supposed to be circulating, but unfortunately for both his writing and acting careers, he's also saddled with the worst agent of all times (played by Stephen Merchant, his co-writer for both this show and The Office).

There are guest appearances each episode from some big name stars: Kate Winslet, Robert De Niro, Ian McKellan, Orlando Bloom. Each of the actors who appears ends up playing themselves - and yet, in Gervais's usual twisted way, he presents them as (what I certainly hope are) polar opposites of their true selves.

The second season sees our hero being a little more successful professionally, but even less successful on a personal level.

This one is a definite 10/10.

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Top Ten Albums ... or, at least, the top four good ones... By Lezah Williamson

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I usually don't agree with those Top Ten lists that are put out, because, for the most part, the choices are too mainstream, banal, mundane... You get the idea.

But I just happened to click on the Top Ten list of albums for this week on inDiscover on MSN.

Turns out the #1 album is the one I currently have in my player: Radiohead, In Rainbows.

#2? My top movie pick for 2006, Juno - or rather, the soundtrack of Juno.

#3? None other than the Canadian (and Grammy-snubbed) singer, Feist, for her album The Reminder.

One more notable pick - #9 - fellow Canadian Michael Buble

Sarah Michelle Gellar to attend Buffy Reunion By Lezah Williamson

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For the first time ever, Sarah Michelle Gellar

will her first post-Buffy event.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer went off the air in 2003. It was a witty and engaging show, with great characterization. The finale was one of the best I've seen - so often the final show cheapens everything, or ends up being a huge let down. Not so with Buffy.

And the fans are hungry for more. Hence the reunions, from which our star has been absent.

But this year, on March 20 at the William S. Paley Television Festival at the Cinerama Dome; in Hollywood whole cast will once again come together. Writer Joss Whedon will appear with the show's casts members Gellar, Amber Benson, Nicholas Brendon, Emma Caulfield, Eliza Dushku, Seth Green (He's an all-star, now, but not too good to appear at this!), James Marsters (Spike - drool!) and Michelle Trachtenberg.

The PaleyFest runs for two weeks, and will also feature panels from current shows Pushing Daisies, Gossip Girl, and Dancing With the Stars, to name but a few.

Close Encounters with Addiction Feb. 21 at SFU, Surrey By: Lezah Williamson

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Dr. Gabor Mate

is a doctor who works in a harm reduction facility in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. He is a former columnist for the Vancouver Sun and the Globe and Mail. On February 12, he will be releasing his latest book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction, in which he talks about all kinds of addition, from heroin to workaholics.

There is a free lecture at SFU's Surrey campus on February 21. Go to for more details.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

tblogger - Old School's Grammy recap

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As promised, here is Old School's Grammy recap. There were a couple highlights, but not a whole lot to write home about. I assume that if you are reading this, you read my Grammy preview from Saturday. If not, I suggest you click on February Archive and read that one first. If so, we are ready to move on.

First, I have to say that Alicia Keys really was the highlight of the show.

She kicked the show off performing a slick duet with Frank Sinatra. Check it out here.

Keys is a tremendous artist and really got the show off on the right foot. She was then presented with the award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance by none other than Prince himself (who won for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance in the non-televised portion of the ceremonies). She won this award for her song No One and I cannot understand how this was not also nominated for Record of the Year?

Much later in the show, Keys returned to perform the song No One in one of the best performances of the night as she was joined by another one of my favorites, John Mayer, on guitar.

I feel that all of these Alicia Keys moments were really some of the best this show, which dragged on for over 3+ hours, had to offer.

If Alicia Keys was the highlight, I have to say Amy Winehouse has to be the lowlight. She was not able to obtain a visa to attend the show, so she performed via satellite from London.

This performance was what you would expect from her and if you are a fan then you probably enjoyed it. I am just not a fan of Winehouse in any way, shape or form. I applaud her uniqueness, but just don't think her music is all that special. That's what it all comes down to, right? The lowlight was not necessarily this horrible performance, but the fact that Amy Winehouse took home Grammy's for Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Female Pop Performance. This was very disappointing to me. She also won Best New Artist which I can understand because the competition in this category was negligible. I just wish with such little quality music being produced that they would not waste recognition on the garbage that Amy Winehouse is putting out there.

Her acceptance speech for Record of the Year, also via satellite, was even a lower lowlight with her fake look of surprise and then incoherent mumbling. I think you can all tell where I stand on this issue, so we will move on to some better things.

As a pleasant surprise to the ‘80s fiend that I am, Morris Day and The Time performed their hit Jungle Love.

This was pretty cool until Rihanna joined them to perform her mega hit Umbrella.

She looked fantastic, but the song still does not do it for me. It was great to see The Time perform together again. One of the funny, but true, lines that I heard was What is the best thing about the 2008 Grammy Awards being over? You might never have to hear the song, Umbrella again. We can only hope.

Carrie Underwood performed her country smash Before He Cheats. Again, I am not a fan of country music, but Ms. Underwood looked beautiful as always. She was nominated for Song of the Year (which she lost to Winehouse), but won the Best Country Song award.

There was a performance by Kanye West. I am not a fan of Kanye, but he did have some cool glow in the dark sunglasses as you can see in the picture. Other than that, he also performed a second song dedicated to his mother who recently passed away.

Tom Hanks introduced a Beatles tribute which featured a performance from the show Love (which later won the award for Best Soundtrack) and the movie Across the Universe. The first was a strange interpretive dance from the Cirque du Soleil show that really was rather horrible to watch even though I am a huge Beatles fan. The second was a fantastic performance of Let it Be featuring a young boy by the name of Timothy Mitchum.

In one of the other highlights of the evening, Fergie performed a song accompanied by John Legend

on the piano. I have a link to this stunning performance here: Fergie and Legend duet.

If her singing on Big Girls Don't Cry does not already prove it, this performance really shows off what an amazing voice Fergie possesses. I also need to say that Fergie's Big Girls Don't Cry definitely deserved to win Best Female Pop Performance which was unfortunately won by Winehouse's Rehab

Also noteworthy was a tremendous performance of Proud Mary by Tina Turner joined by the amazing Beyoncé.

Turner is well renown for her high energy performances and the gorgeous Beyoncé complemented her extremely well. It was great to see how the show wove the stars of today with legends of the industry throughout the evening. However, this could have been effectively edited and trimmed down to at least thee hours.

If my biggest disappointment of the night was all of the awards given to Amy Winehouse, the biggest surprise had to be that Herbie Hancock actually stole the Album of the Year award. I don't think anyone was expecting this and, even if it may or may not been warranted, yet it was nice to see them honor diversity.

I was happy to see that Justin Timberlake's What Goes Around...Comes Aroundat least won for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. I was also pleased to see Maroon 5 win for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group, though neither award was presented live during the televised portion of the show.

That puts a wrap on my Grammy recap. There were a couple fantastic performances, but even those were not all that truly memorable in the big scheme of things. At least - to my ears - I think we are in the midst of a music slump or recession, if you will. There are still some tremendous artists and songs, but unfortunately they are not always the ones getting all of the awards and airplay.

Thanks for reading Kickin' it Old School.

Please be sure to click on my tblog Archives to read any previous issues you may have missed.

If you like what you read, please subscribe and/or tell a friend or two. Peace and much love.

Quote of the day: Great music is that which penetrates the ear with facility and leaves the memory with difficulty. Magical music never leaves the memory.-Sir Thomas Beecham

Download this:

No One by Alicia Keys - As mentioned above, this song from her recent album As I Am won for Best Female R&B Performance, but probably deserved to at least be nominated for more.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Macbook Air ™ Advertisement Introduces Yael Naim to the World

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In the past month, the Apple Computer advertisement for their new MacBook Air™ laptop computer has had people around the world asking about the infectious accompanying tune. The soundtrack for the commercial is the song New Soul by Israeli artist Yael Naïm.

New Soul started as a track on Naïm's self-titled sophomore release on the French label Tôt ou Tard. The song was released as a single in France in 2007 and, after significant radio support, it quickly rose to #1 on France's iTunes chart.

The success of New Soul on France's iTunes chart caught the attention of the ad agency putting together the MacBook Air™ campaign. Since the commercial's debut in January, New Soul has risen to #1 on the U.S. iTunes Top Songs chart and #2 on Canada's iTunes Top Songs chart. The song has also led to an astounding number of album downloads in North America.

Yael Naïm was born in Paris, France but spent a large part of her childhood in Ramat Hacharon, a small town not far from Tel Aviv, Israel. She spent ten years in a music conservatory studying classical piano in hopes of one day and by the age of 12 (thanks to the influence of the Beatles and Joni Mitchell) helped her determine her musical direction

After playing a charity concert in 2000, Yael Naïm recorded of her debut album In A Man's Womb. In 2004, she joined multi-instrumentalist, David Donatien and they formed her present day ‘group’.

Her latest album, self-titled Yael Naïm, was recorded in her Paris apartment and features 13 songs including New Soul, and an unpredictable cover of Britney Spears' Toxic. This album is due to be released in Canada on Tuesday, February 26, 2008.

The Glim Project is back in Vancouver.

The Glim Project has a whack of touring under their belts and are back in Vancouver so write down this date on your calendar.

Saturday, February 16th

The Media Club
(Cambie and Georgia)

With: Prox

Burning Borders

The Glim Project will take the stage at 9:30 p.m.

Purchase your tickets in advance here.

Visit The Glim Project at Myspace.

image from

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Shut up. Shut up. Shut up. By Mike Gillis

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Image from

There's nothing like spending a Wednesday night at your local hole-in-the-wall watering hole, exercising (exorcising?) the old beer gland and soaking up some dirty ass rock & roll.

What a delightful midweek social activity.

That is unless, out of fucking nowhere, your hole-in-the-wall watering hole is hosting a Spoken Word Poetry Slam.

More specifically an 'open mic' Spoken Word Poetry Slam.

There's a reason people hide diaries under beds people.

And that reason is shame.

Teenage girls know this, why don't you?

I'm as open minded as the next guy. If you wanna yodel while wearing a tampon tophat and have cocaine for breakfast every morning, that's fine with me.

But I have to draw the line at Spoken Word Poetry Slams. Especially SWPS's that happen at bars.

Bars are for drinking and loud music. You ruined my bar. I'm sure you think you're 'expressing yourself' or 'making an artistic statement' or 'are a cool person completely in touch with reality' but the fact of the matter is that nobody, absolutely nobody, in the world, cares about poems about other people's feelings.

Arts/entertainment wise, standing on a stage reading a poem about your laminated scrapbook of melancholy is the zenith of laziness.

And anyone who claims they really 'got it' or 'were totally feeling it' are only doing so hoping that you'll maybe have sex with them later. Which is also a zenith of laziness, Albeit in a completely different field.

Unless you're a famous author, a science professor, a really hot chick or Batman, there's a 99.98% chance that no one will give a fuck.

"But they clapped afterwards."

Only to relieve the awkward silence.

And maybe pity.

Some people are nice.

Not me apparently.

I’d rather watch a Mime Show.

"But that mime wasn't expressing anything? He had no message, man."

Yeah, but did you see when he was trapped in that box? "But he got out of the box?"

I know! and did you see how windy it was up there? Maybe I'm being a bit of a philistine here.

Maybe I shouldn't knock it until I’ve tried it.

But if (IF) I ever attempted to walk through the Ring Of Fire that is spoken word, I'd at least have the sense to moxy it up a bit.

An interesting story!


Throw a few jump kicks in there!

Adjective solo!

"Now you're just trying to be offensive."

Yeah, well, you're a retard.

Thank you and goodnight.

Sheldon Brown By: Terry Lowe

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Sheldon Brown was an American iconoclast; a builder, inventor, and innovator; a prolific writer, devoted family man, and possessor of an encyclopedic knowledge of all aspects of the bicycle. There was probably nothing he did not know, and write, about bikes, and there definitely was not anything he could not fix.

His many web sites, linked together at, are an unmatched resource of cycling knowledge, most (but by no means all) technical or historical. As he put it:

As a kid, I used to gather discarded bicycle parts and put together bikes to sell for pocket money. I have been tinkering with bicycles ever since, sometimes as a business, always as a hobby.

“Tinkering” was characteristically modest. Of dozens of bikes Sheldon owned, my favourite is found here. It is an early-1970s O.T.B. (“Only The Best,” a private label assembled in Boston by a very discriminating dealer), which Sheldon modified to have 63 speeds, three gear shifts, and an extra front brake lever, which makes for lots of cables. Here’s how you get 63 speeds on a bike: start with a Sturmey-Archer 7-speed internally geared hub, add seven sprockets to the same axle, and run that with the standard three chain ring arrangement at the pedals. 7 X 3 X 3 = 63.

His wife is a computer scientist, and Sheldon may well have been one of the world’s first bloggers. He first put his site up in 1997, and added to it continually thereafter. It grew to be so extensive that anyone with a technical question checked there first. In cycling forums, newbie questions were usually directed there with the initials AASHTA (“As always, Sheldon has the answer”).

Sheldon was diagnosed with MS in 2006, which affected his balance, and that meant he was unable to ride his bikes anymore. He enjoyed riding a recumbent trike for a while, but soon was unable to ride even that, and so zipped around on an electric scooter. He still personally answered hundreds of emails every day, happily sharing his knowledge, helping people find obscure bike parts, and so forth. He was taken by a massive heart attack on Feb 3, 2008, at the age of 63.

The response has been phenomenal. Impromptu web site memorials have sprung up (locally, see, there have been memorial rides across North America, and the obits and eulogies are everywhere. I found this, for example, on

I had the pleasure of meeting Sheldon many years ago while conducting research for Giant Bicycles. His basement headquarters was an Aladdin’s cave of obscure and hard-to-get gear, and Sheldon was a gentleman and a great host. We played a game for a couple hours with me trying to come up with really obscure components and him locating the said part. Sach’s Duopar long cage rear mech? Third row, bottom shelf on the right. French-threaded Stronglight alloy headset? Sixth row, second shelf down on the left and so on, until I ran out of ideas. I particularly remember him proudly showing us his 1910 track bike with wooden tubular rims, “for riding on dry days only,” he said. He will be greatly missed.

Sheldon’s presence - even though I only ever knew him through his web sites - was so life-affirming and his joie de vivre so irrepressible that it’s hard to think of him in the past tense. My little world will never seem quite the same without him.

Goodbye, Sheldon (sniff), I hope you get to fix the bikes in Heaven.

Image by wikipedia, released into public domain by subject and owner of copyright (that’d be Sheldon himself, also an avid amateur photograper).

The Greatest Song of All Time By Shane Christensen

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Recently I had compiled lists of my top ten rock albums and Canadian rock albums of all time, and had the thought of doing the same for the top songs of all time. This could appear to be an almost impossible task given the multitude of great work that has been produced throughout the rock era, and what made it harder for me was that my favourite song of all time is not even in the rock genre, but is actually a classical piece that most of us have heard in various films or television shows, ranging from Platoon to the Simpsons.

The life of the composer of the movement Adagio For Strings is just as incredible as the composition for which he is most famously known. For one, Samuel Barber might be described as a child musical prodigy since he had completed his first composition by the age of seven, and attempted to write his first opera when he was only ten years old. The young lad was worried about the effects of this obvious musical destiny on his beloved mother, and implored her in a letter not to worry, and don’t ask me to forget this unpleasant thing and go play football. One can only imagine how proud and touched she would have been to hear the absolute beauty of her son’s creative genius years down the road.

By the time he was in his late teens, he had already won an award from Columbia University for his Violin Sonata, so obviously this young man had truly exceptional musical talents. It was around this time that Samuel met Italian composer Gian Carlo Menotti at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of music, and the two men forged a musical and personal relationship that spanned over forty years, with their most notable musical collaborative work being the operas Vanessa and Antony and Cleopatra, although the latter work was one of his rare ‘failures’ as the opera was universally panned, although musically it was known as some of his finest work.

He composed Adagio For Strings when he was 28, and there’s a story regarding the composition that I found interesting, and which speaks volumes about the song’s incredible effect on the listener. Barber had sent Adagio to the noted Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini, who subsequently sent it back to him without commenting on the piece. Although this was interpreted as a slight and annoyed Barber immensely, in reality Toscanini was so impressed with the work that he memorized the entire piece and did not have to look at the written music until the day before he premiered it with the NBC Symphony Orchestra for a radio broadcast on November 5, 1938. This version is so impressive that it was selected for permanent preservation in the Library Of Congress’s National Recording Registry in 2005.

This composition, which has been described as both simple and beautiful by notables such as Toscanini, evokes a response from listeners that most works from any musical genre seldom achieve. It’s no surprise that it was chosen to be played live at a ceremony at Ground Zero in New York City to commemorate the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as there is no other song in existence that stirs the emotional senses in the way this masterpiece does.

Incidentally, it was voted the saddest classical piece ever by the listeners of the BBC’s Today programme and has been one of the top selling classical downloads on iTunes. It has been included in at least eight Hollywood films including Lorenzo’s Oil, The Elephant Man, and the earlier mentioned Platoon, and is used recurrently on the Simpsons, which guarantees that a whole new generation will be exposed to this extraordinary musical work.

As a lifelong lover of music, I hold a deep reverence for those artists that have been blessed with the ability to create the extraordinary, and there is no doubt that Samuel Barber achieved this with his splendid composition Adagio For Strings, my choice for the greatest ‘song’ of all time.

Top Five Shoe Trendmakers By Lisa Brown

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Are you a closet horiculturalist? All garden confessionals go to:

Many women are in love with their shoes, and I'm no exception. With a collection of 300+ at last count, finding the perfect pair of shoes is a borderline obsession for me. Shoes are the ultimate accessory. A woman may be able to leave the house with just a credit card in her pocket, but she almost never makes a run to the store without her shoes. But what determines whether I'm going to wear my patent leather pumps or my open toed sandals? The truth is, a handful of trendmakers and legendary shoemakers influence most people's decisions. Here are my top five picks for shoe legend-makers.

Sarah Jessica Parker -

Although she has never made a pair of shoes (to the best of my knowledge), she has had more influence on shoes’ popularity than anyone else in recent memory. Although Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin made the shoes, Sarah Jessica Parker's character, Carrie, in Sex and the City made them famous. These shoe designers were popular among stars before the show, but their shoes soon became part of the average woman’s vocabulary because of this show.

David Evins - If there is a shoe hall of fame, David Evins has a whole wing of the hall to himself. Evins has been called the inventor of the pump. For that alone, he's got a guaranteed spot on my list.

Terry de Havilland - Terry de Havilland makes some of the wildest, most impossible shoes ever seen. Some of these include impossibly tall platforms, and shoes that have tripped models on the runway. But despite this somewhat sadistic description, he's one of today’s most interesting designers. I had the luck to see him in a store several years ago, while visiting London, but I didn't have the courage to speak to him. I think I would have been less nervous about seeing the Queen! (After all, I've never lusted after any of Her Majesty's hats, but I'd kill for one pair of Terry de Havilland's shoes.)

Salvatore Ferragamo - Ferragamo is one of the best designers ever. One well known story about him is that he noticed that women would buy his shoes, but complain about how much they hurt.

In order to make his shoe designs more comfortable, he actually studied anatomy. For all the women who have ever worn an uncomfortable pair of shoes, this is definitely an appreciated development.

United Nude - United Nude is my own personal favourite shoe store. Their designs are unlike anything else available. The shoes were co-designed by an architect and shoemaker, and the designs have a very architectural nature. With shoes that appear to float in mid-air and some which wrap around themselves, United Nude offers unique shoes that will definitely influence the future of footwear. Of all the pairs of shoes in my closet, these are the most treasured.

Sources for images:

Sarah JP:

david evins

Terry DeHavilland

salvator Ferragamo

United Nude