Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Favourite lyrics of 2008

I'm still putting last minute touches on my Best of 2008 list, so for now, here are some of my favourite lyrics of the year (I'm sure I'm forgetting some).

You take the pieces of the dreams that you have
Because you don't like the way they seem to be going
You cut them up and spread them out on the floor
You're full of hope as you begin rearranging
(The Lovers Are Losing by Keane)

Got my dreams, got my life, got my love
Got my friends, got the sunshine above
(Happy by Natasha Bedingfield)

Revoluationaries wait
for my head on a silver plate
just a puppet on a lonely string
aah who would ever want to be king?
(Viva La Vida by Coldplay)

And sing that old song, how does it go?
Look out sunshine, here's the punchline
No one gets you anymore
(Look Out Sunshine! by The Fratellis)

You make me so much better
I hope I don't make you worse
(This is Happiness by Gavin Rossdale)

Safety pins holding up the things
That make you mine
(Shine On by The Kooks)

My heart beats fast
but the clock ticks slowly
You can be my one and only
As anticipation beckons
I feel the thrill of 30 seconds
(Thrill of 30 Seconds by Skint & Demoralised)

Forgot about the accident
The words you didn't say
Forgot to call the ambulance
To take your heart away
(Hiding Place by Serena Ryder)

For now I'm faking it
Till I'm pseudo making it
from scratch begin again
but this time
I as I not as we
(Not as We by Alanis Morissette)

No I don't want to battle from beginning to end
I don't want a cycle of recycled revenge
I don't want to follow death and all of his friends
(Death and All His Friends by Coldplay)

What do you want for tea?
I want crisps
(Never Miss a Beat by Kaiser Chiefs)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Photo Blog #7: Santa Claus is coming to town

Toronto Eaton Centre

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all.

A big thank you to my blog readers, Facebook friends, Twitter followers, Flickr viewers and Finetune listeners for being part of my online world.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Music highlights of the year

The best songs (and albums) of 2008:
  • Coldplay - 42 (epic haunting track), Yes (love the low tone vocal), Viva la Vida (track of the year) and Death and all his Friends (best rhythm riff of the year), album of the year and the best band in the world today
  • Kaiser Chiefs - Never Miss a Beat, best catchy song, incl. best lyric "what do you want for tea ? I want crisps", plus best small club concert
  • Oasis - The Shock of the Lightning, still cheeky and still rocking, now with psychedelic backdrop
  • The Fratellis - Tell Me a Lie, many fab tracks on the album, top band I still want to see live
  • Glasvegas - Geraldine, you can feel the angst on the Scots' guitar strings
  • The Dears - Crisis 1 & 2, dark and moody layers from Montreal, perhaps summing up the somber moods of 2008
  • Beth Rowley - Sweet Hours, simply a beautiful voice
  • Duffy - Warwick Avenue, tough job selecting just one track off this fantastic album, sadly, the wee gal isn't so engaging live
  • TV on the Radio - Shout me Out, complex sounds massively varied across tracks and album
  • Kings of Leon - Crawl (best guitar riff of the year - even versus AC/DC), wonderful, mature 3rd album from Tennessee boys, I'm converted and sold, hallelujah
  • AC/DC - Rocking all the Way, the list really wouldn't be complete without wee Angus
  • The Heavy - Our Special Place, eclectic album, better beats than sound-a-like Gnarls B
  • The Streets - I Love You More (Than you Like Me), Brit rap joy, album also includes must-mention clap along track Heaven for the Weather
  • The Killers - Human, quirky pop brilliance, looking forward to the big show in January
  • Neil Diamond - The Power of Two, heart felt lyrics beautifully produced from old timer
  • Jason Mraz - Lucky, super sappy duet with beach girl Colbie C
  • Elbow - On a Day Like This (anthem of the year), pastoral, emotional with strings
  • MGMT - Time to Pretend - thank you Strombo for the early tip
  • Black Mountain - Queens will Play, retro rock done right by Vancouver scruffs
  • Morcheeba - Thumbnails, deep late night instrumental electronica
  • Thievery Corporation - Hare Krsna, surprise new inventive exotic grooves from one of my early electronica faves, looking forward to seeing them live in February
  • The Kooks - Do you Wanna, sing it loud, straight up pop Rock
  • The Last Shadow Puppets - My Mistakes Were Made for You, keeping Monkey fans happy with superb Turner lyrics
  • Razorlight - Wire to Wire, passionate sounds from the rocking lads
  • Travis - Chinese Blues, the album is still growing on me, great come-back-from-the-dead rich sounds
  • Vampire Weekend - Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, last minute addition - rating and classification not quite dry, tip from my bro and making a few critic best ofs, punchy indy tracks with weird hint of Paul Simon.
I started making the list thinking 2008 was just an average music year, but now having sampled all the tracks above again, I have to say 2008 was a fantastic year for new music.

As most of you know I'm a big Brit music fan, but surprisingly a quick tally across the globe shows a healthy 11 of the 26 artists coming from North America.


Some one-hit wonders of 2008:

  • Ray Lamontagne - You Are the Best Thing, I love horns and a rough voice, may be more goodies on the CD, but this track is standout
  • Black Kids - Hurricane Jane, gentle sounds with urban feel
  • Gabriella Cilmi - Sweet about me, fantastic musical and vocal trip from a very young lady
  • Sonya Kitchell - Here to There, beautiful Canadian voice rolled into a landscape piece
  • Usher - What's your Name, guilty hip hop pop find from Victoria Secret show
Old stuff rediscovered and/or triggered by new releases:
  • Joy Division - Atmosphere, early new wave beats with ill-fated lyrics
  • Primal Scream - Some Velvet Morning, one of my favourite dance tracks but the Kate Moss vocals wasn't the kicker
  • Brazilian Girls - Don't Stop, very catchy and toe tappin' tease
  • The Wombats - Moving to New York, original version plus Paul Van Dyck Remix, nice find of missed hipsters of 2007
  • Susan Tedeschi - Share Your Love with Me, you gotta have some lady blues in your mix
  • The Dears - Lost in the Plot (best old track discovery), no that's not Morrissey singing
  • Just Jack - Life Stories, great Brit hip hop chappy pop grooves
Concert highlights:
  • Oasis (Virgin Festival) - lived up to the reputation and hype and then some
  • Kaiser Chiefs (Mod Club) - lots of bawdy fun and bouncin', almost helped surf Ricky over to the bar
  • Coldplay (Air Canada Centre) - magnificent show, energy, lighting and a lively crowd
  • Morcheba (Opera House) - groovy scene showing class electronica performance with lots of guitars
  • The Kooks (Mod Club) - always lots of fun, even with a broken ankle
  • Duffy (Mod Club) - clean sounds from the tiny Welsh chantreuse, but I found her stage presence a little uncomfortable - still on the list because she just sounds fantastic
  • John Mayer (Molson Amphitheatre) - for saying we were seated way back, the sound and performance was top notch
Apologies for the no-link post, but it would have taken me just too long to put it all together and I wanted to complete while I was in the groove. But you can listen to many of the tracks and artists on my latest Finetune playlist 2008 Big Update.

Music highlights of the year

The best songs (and albums) of 2008:
  • Coldplay - 42 (epic haunting track), Yes (love the low tone vocal), Viva la Vida (track of the year) and Death and all his Friends (best rhythm riff of the year), album of the year and the best band in the world today
  • Kaiser Chiefs - Never Miss a Beat, best catchy song, incl. best lyric "what do you want for tea ? I want crisps", plus best small club concert
  • Oasis - The Shock of the Lightning, still cheeky and still rocking, now with psychedelic backdrop
  • The Fratellis - Tell Me a Lie, many fab tracks on the album, top band I still want to see live
  • Glasvegas - Geraldine, you can feel the angst on the Scots' guitar strings
  • The Dears - Crisis 1 & 2, dark and moody layers from Montreal, perhaps summing up the somber moods of 2008
  • Beth Rowley - Sweet Hours, simply a beautiful voice
  • Duffy - Warwick Avenue, tough job selecting just one track off this fantastic album, sadly, the wee gal isn't so engaging live
  • TV on the Radio - Shout me Out, complex sounds massively varied across tracks and album
  • Kings of Leon - Crawl (best guitar riff of the year - even versus AC/DC), wonderful, mature 3rd album from Tennessee boys, I'm converted and sold, hallelujah
  • AC/DC - Rocking all the Way, the list really wouldn't be complete without wee Angus
  • The Heavy - Our Special Place, eclectic album, better beats than sound-a-like Gnarls B
  • The Streets - I Love You More (Than you Like Me), Brit rap joy, album also includes must-mention clap along track Heaven for the Weather
  • The Killers - Human, quirky pop brilliance, looking forward to the big show in January
  • Neil Diamond - The Power of Two, heart felt lyrics beautifully produced from old timer
  • Jason Mraz - Lucky, super sappy duet with beach girl Colbie C
  • Elbow - On a Day Like This (anthem of the year), pastoral, emotional with strings
  • MGMT - Time to Pretend - thank you Strombo for the early tip
  • Black Mountain - Queens will Play, retro rock done right by Vancouver scruffs
  • Morcheeba - Thumbnails, deep late night instrumental electronica
  • Thievery Corporation - Hare Krsna, surprise new inventive exotic grooves from one of my early electronica faves, looking forward to seeing them live in February
  • The Kooks - Do you Wanna, sing it loud, straight up pop Rock
  • The Last Shadow Puppets - My Mistakes Were Made for You, keeping Monkey fans happy with superb Turner lyrics
  • Razorlight - Wire to Wire, passionate sounds from the rocking lads
  • Travis - Chinese Blues, the album is still growing on me, great come-back-from-the-dead rich sounds
  • Vampire Weekend - Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, last minute addition - rating and classification not quite dry, tip from my bro and making a few critic best ofs, punchy indy tracks with weird hint of Paul Simon.
I started making the list thinking 2008 was just an average music year, but now having sampled all the tracks above again, I have to say 2008 was a fantastic year for new music.

As most of you know I'm a big Brit music fan, but surprisingly a quick tally across the globe shows a healthy 11 of the 26 artists coming from North America.


Some one-hit wonders of 2008:
  • Ray Lamontagne - You Are the Best Thing, I love horns and a rough voice, may be more goodies on the CD, but this track is standout
  • Black Kids - Hurricane Jane, gentle sounds with urban feel
  • Gabriella Cilmi - Sweet about me, fantastic musical and vocal trip from a very young lady
  • Sonya Kitchell - Here to There, beautiful Canadian voice rolled into a landscape piece
  • Usher - What's your Name, guilty hip hop pop find from Victoria Secret show
Old stuff rediscovered and/or triggered by new releases:
  • Joy Division - Atmosphere, early new wave beats with ill-fated lyrics
  • Primal Scream - Some Velvet Morning, one of my favourite dance tracks but the Kate Moss vocals wasn't the kicker
  • Brazilian Girls - Don't Stop, very catchy and toe tappin' tease
  • The Wombats - Moving to New York, original version plus Paul Van Dyck Remix, nice find of missed hipsters of 2007
  • Susan Tedeschi - Share Your Love with Me, you gotta have some lady blues in your mix
  • The Dears - Lost in the Plot (best old track discovery), no that's not Morrissey singing
  • Just Jack - Life Stories, great Brit hip hop chappy pop grooves
Concert highlights:
  • Oasis (Virgin Festival) - lived up to the reputation and hype and then some
  • Kaiser Chiefs (Mod Club) - lots of bawdy fun and bouncin', almost helped surf Ricky over to the bar
  • Coldplay (Air Canada Centre) - magnificent show, energy, lighting and a lively crowd
  • Morcheba (Opera House) - groovy scene showing class electronica performance with lots of guitars
  • The Kooks (Mod Club) - always lots of fun, even with a broken ankle
  • Duffy (Mod Club) - clean sounds from the tiny Welsh chantreuse, but I found her stage presence a little uncomfortable - still on the list because she just sounds fantastic
  • John Mayer (Molson Amphitheatre) - for saying we were seated way back, the sound and performance was top notch
Apologies for the no-link post, but it would have taken me just too long to put it all together and I wanted to complete while I was in the groove. But you can listen to many of the tracks and artists on my latest Finetune playlist 2008 Big Update.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Reporting live 3 days ago...

This "live report" at 4:26pm on Friday, December 19th got lost in the mash of the tech transfer circus...posting so I can document this weather related little adventure...

Trying to get home.

Subway cars are jammed packed, it's going to be a nightmare for those commuters transferring to surface routes - I'm lucky I just have a nasty 10 min walk home in the blizzard. But still, I'm sure driving is worse. Dumb thing is, I actually chose to go to the office, rather than work from home today - I chose poorly.


Blackberry shot from the office at 1:30pm on Friday

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sears helping us remember our soldiers overseas

I stumbled on a special event at Sears on Tuesday. It was a presentation for Operation Wish with Sears Canada CEO, store manager and husband and wife military captains on hand to talk about the program and give people a chance to sign the banners that will be sent to our troops in Afghanistan. I signed a simple greeting of Thank you. Stay Safe. Although Christmas is supposed to be a time to think of others, our busy personal lives and precious family time normally take precedent. Take a moment to think about how lucky you are that you're safe and have the comfort of a home around you. Over the next week or so, contemplate the lives of those less fortunate or the brave troops making huge sacrifices for the greater good, maybe it will help put things in perspective. If you can do more, fantastic, but reserving a little place in your hearts and minds for others is something we can all do.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Make my day, shoot someone

I have been seeing signs for "Pixels for Pistols" around town over the last few months and got a bit of a clue as to the details behind the program. In today's Metro and saw some great news...Police trade digital cams for 1,900 guns !

I never would have thought such a simple, yet generous program would have such a large impact.

So make my day - shoot someone... shoot a friend laughing, your sibling teasing your Dad, a beautiful face of a girl on the street, or an old man whose face tells a thousand stories. I believe in shooting a lot and often, photography is a fantastic hobby, I love discovering great photography and love sharing my own shots.

Some links you might enjoy:
Flickr portrait photographs
; all my posts about photography; my page on Flickr; Digital Photography School blog. I have lots more, just let me know if you want some specific pointers.

Cheese.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A TTC rant - and not an obvious one

Why is it taking the TTC sssssssoooooooo long to repair the down escalator at the Eglinton Subway station ? I'm close to actually finding out what bureaucratic pin-head is behind this shameful example of incompetence and putting his name publicly on the virtual wall-of-shame. All public transit believers pay good money to take "the better way" and we patiently tolerate an occasional break in service. But this ? Come on red hats, get your act together. I photographed this same elevator debacle back in May and I'm sure we're past its anniversary. The result is the same - hundreds of people forced to navigate down a narrow, two-stage, side stairway. while others try to come up the stairs against the flow (either healthy types looking to burn a few extra calories, or those wanting a 6" short cut, or those not seeing the fully functional up escalator).

Yes, the sign says "maintenance", but I'm not sure what kind of maintenance takes over a year !

Thursday, December 04, 2008

This is what makes YouTube so much fun

Excitement in Canadian Politics

Yes, your read that title correctly, there is actually something to get excited about in Canadian politics. There's even a live blog happening right now...

If you've been following the political crisis going on here in Canada, perhaps you'll agree (or disagree) with some of my thoughts on the matter...

  • If the opposition parties really want to form a coalition, why didn't they do that a few months ago so we could vote on it during the election ?
  • Can we really feel comfortable with a coalition (or even an opposition party, i.e. the Liberals) who don't appear to be very comfortable with their leader
  • I've heard that the Conservatives made a similar move with the Bloc Quebecois some years ago, but they are playing on our short term political memory and saying support from the Bloc creates a separatist agenda - I don't buy that
  • Who's telling the truth - have the opposition parties really made any realistic and specific recommendations to the government on dealing with the economic crisis ? Harper says they haven't, Layton says they have. Interesting and ironic side note that Harper was supposed to be in Woodstock this morning for the opening of a new Toyota plant !
  • I'm still confused on what justification is required for the Prime Minister to ask for a prorogue parliament. Is it just a legal wiggle to bide time ? And what about the fact that Harper already delayed the confidence vote last week ?
  • I'm still uncomfortable with this idea that the coalition is suggesting that they are "re-configuring" their seats to create a majority coalition without any public say. That just doesn't feel right or democratic.
  • I actually found myself liking Jack Layton during his press conference last night, I can't say I support his NDP agenda, but in coalition with the Liberals and the Bloc, he may be a more interesting choice as a leader than Dion. Could Layton (or for that matter Dion) really put aside their partisan agenda in favour of a united opposition. It sounds nice, but it's still a big stretch to actually seeing how it would work.
  • Although a few months ago I was thinking it was nice to have a wide variety of political parties, I'm beginning to understand the benefits of having just two or three choices and actually creating a government that can get things done.
I'd love to hear your thoughts and arguments.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

New "subscribe to comments" feature

If you read this blog often and you'd like to subscribe to reader comments using RSS - you can do that now by using the new link on the right panel: Subscribe to All Comments.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

When did consumers change from heterotrophs to wasteful shoppers ?

Good title eh ? What the hell is a heterotroph ? Hah, got ya !

I found this word as I was considering the word
consumer. You do a Wikipedia search for consumer and you get the typical economic explanation. But what about the other meaning of the word ? It took a while to notice the single-line redirection right at the top in italics ! This is perhaps an example where Wikipedia's focus is just too narrow, and can unintentionally steer our thinking to unquestioned elements of today's society, rather than be a tool to open up our minds and take a fresh look at the world. But I digress...

So, I looked on an
online dictionary for the word consumer. I thought I was out of luck, but there is was at the bottom of the list.
A heterotrophic organism that feeds on other organisms in a food chain. Herbivores that feed on green plants and detritivores that feed on decaying matter are called primary consumers. Carnivores that feed on herbivores or detritivores are called secondary consumers, while those that feed on other carnivores are called tertiary consumers.
So, then I looked for heterotrophic on Wikipedia. So, apart from learning a cool new word for the day, what does this potentially tell us ?

I agree that modern humans are much more than heterotrophs, but carelessly re-using the word that fundamentally drives our survival as a word to designate "buying something" is perhaps an indication that we've taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way.
(sidenote#1 - ok, the definition of consumer in Wikipedia does actually start by talking about "using" rather than "buying", but I'm sure you'll agree that's how we normally think about a consumer today; sidenote #2, in software tech talk, we often refer to an application consuming an object; sidenote #3 - blogger even thinks heterotroph isn't a word).

I found a brief excerpt from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consumerism that gives some insight into this new use of the word.

The great turn in consumerism arrived with the Industrial Revolution. While before the norm had been the scarcity of resources, The Industrial Revolution created an unusual situation: for the first time in history products were available in outstanding quantities, at outstandingly low prices, being thus available to virtually everyone. And so began the era of Mass Consumption, the only where the concept of consumerism is applicable.

It's still good to keep in mind that since consumerism began, various individuals and groups have consciously sought an alternative lifestyle through simple living.

But as you can read from this, there is a glimmer of understanding that we don't have to be this way and in fact, total, unabated consumerism is wasteful and harmful in many ways.

With the Christmas season bearing down hard, good intentions for charity and the simple life, not to mention the dreadful state of the economy and darkening skies in the future, I thought I'd try and provide some simple guidelines for our shopping decisions. I thought about a fancy flowchart, but perhaps the following step-thru guide does the trick. So you think you need to buy a new item and you can afford it, should you buy it?
  1. Are you replacing an item you already own ? If no, skip to 8.
  2. Do you use the current one ? If no skip to 7.
  3. Is the current one broken, worn out or unreliable ? If yes, skip to 15.
  4. Is it killing the environment or making you sick ? If yes, skip to 15.
  5. Is it hideously out of date and makes your family disown you ? If yes, skip to 15.
  6. Is it the reason your good friends don't call you any more ? If yes, skip to 15.
  7. You don't need a new one.
  8. Do you really need more than 1 of these items ? If no, return to 2.
  9. Is the new item going to save you lots of extra time and/or money ? If yes, skip to 14.
  10. Will you use it more than once a week (average) ? If no, skip to 16.
  11. Will it increase the chances of sex with your spouse ? If yes, skip to 14.
  12. Will it prevent an massive argument with the family ? If yes, skip to 14.
  13. Will it make you sing, dance and/or laugh ? If no, skip to 16.
  14. Buy it.
  15. Buy it and recycle the old one
    (or at least dispose of it in an environmentally friendly way)
  16. Don't buy it.
I admit, this is slanted towards by personal beliefs and provides just enough justification for staying up to date, stylish and entertained. It is work-in-progress, and will likely change, once I break it. In addition and to close, I should probably build a similar guide for reducing the amount of unnecessary or excess stuff in my life.

Friday, November 21, 2008

New tunes


I finally got around to creating a new playlist in Finetune. It's basically a summary of favourites of the year minus a few that are still not available on Finetune, like Just Jack. I hadn't been on it for a while, but was pleased to see a lot of new content. For those that don't have access to cheap music or good on-demand radio, I hope you'll like this way of listening to some new music. The mix is pretty broad, including a couple of slower jazz and folk tracks, to AC/DC, with lots of stops on modern British stuff.

New tunes


I finally got around to creating a new playlist in Finetune. It's basically a summary of favourites of the year minus a few that are still not available on Finetune, like Just Jack. I hadn't been on it for a while, but was pleased to see a lot of new content. For those that don't have access to cheap music or good on-demand radio, I hope you'll like this way of listening to some new music. The mix is pretty broad, including a couple of slower jazz and folk tracks, to AC/DC, with lots of stops on modern British stuff.

Hello

It's sunny, it's Friday and it's World Hello Day. The simple idea is to do your part for world peace by saying hello to strangers today. I like the idea, I'm going to try and do it. Although I didn't do it yet and I was in a crowded subway with other people reading the same front page this morning- hm. If that's too big of a stretch for you, perhaps just make sure you have a nice smile today, open the door for someone, or offer directions to someone who's a little lost. This last action is my personal favourite and something I do quite often. Actually it's quite easy for me because my office is in the Eaton Centre and there's always some confused shoppers. Hey, this way I get to say hello and offer some assistance at the same time, brilliant.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I Predict a Great Show!

A while ago, I blogged about the bands I would love to see. One of them played last night in Toronto, but unfortunately, I couldn't get tickets to see The Killers (but I will get to see them in January, so it's ok).

Things always work out for a reason, in my opinion. Since I couldn't get Killers tickets, I didn't end up having to decide if I would go to see Kaiser Chiefs (who I already had tickets to see and saw last year) or The Killers (who I have never seen). How do two of my favourite bands play in the same city on the same night?

So off to the Mod Club I went last night expecting a great show by the band who won Q Magazine's Best Live Act of 2008.

The commentors on my blog about the bands I would love to see make a good point which is the timing of seeing someone. Ideally you want to see a band at their prime...ideally in a small venue (but sometimes the spectacle of the big shows and the large crowds are great as well).

Often when you go into an event with high expectations, you are disappointed...so with high expectations (after a great show last year and them being named Best Live Act), I wondered if I would be disappointed.

Kaiser Chiefs once again showed why they won Best Live Act. Even though the sold out crowd was small, they didn't care and gave a show like if it was a huge crowd. Sometimes Toronto crowds can be a little laid back, but the crowd was completely into it which added to the enjoyment.

Last year when I saw them at Kool Haus, I was on the floor level. As great as that is, I got to see it from the balcony this time...we had a great view of Ricky's multiple crowd surfing!



Here's a video I took last night...if you only want the best bit fast forward to 2:20 (and don't miss him catching his microphone at 2:45)



If you're interested in reading a "proper" review, you can find the Canoe one here.

The bottom line for me is, if you have the opportunity to see Kaiser Chiefs live...don't hesitate! This concert was part of a short North American trek. They'll be back in 2009 for a proper tour. Don't miss them!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Happyness

Before one of you points on the obvious, yes, it's spelled wrong.

I finally got around to watching The
Pursuit of Happyness last night. I had heard many good things about the movie, incl. award nominations, but I never seemed to be in the mood for what appeared to be a pretty depressing movie.

POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT.


The movie is based on the true story of
Chris Gardner who is portrayed by Will Smith (I have to say that on reflection I really like Will Smith and his movies, he's a good actor, he seems to really embody the role he's playing, he's funny and he's just a likable guy, on and off the screen). The one word that keeps coming to mind is tension. Not necessarily the tension he showed on screen, but the tension I felt watching the story unfold. At one point, a consciously had to unclench my hands. It was truly an emotional movie and as good movie always do, it immersed me in the life of the main character, and the actor almost disappeared from view.

The movie doesn't clearly say why there is a 'y' in
happyness, but Chris explains his viewpoint in the this interview on The Hour:


That is, the "y" is "you" and happiness means different things to different people. In the movie, references are made to Thomas Jefferson and the
US Declaration of Independence and the mention of the pursuit of happiness in the preamble. The interpretation I loved was that happiness is not necessarily a state, but more of a pursuit. And what truer thought than today in the US and the millions of people with rejuvenated journeys towards happiness. I think I can relate to the fleeting thoughts, or the just-out-of-reach idea, of happiness. But as another guest of The Hour, Alanis Morissette recently discussed with Stroumbo (at 6:52), is that perhaps peace is a better personal goal than happiness.

Back to the movie. What Chris Gardner has done in his life is truly inspiring and a great lesson in determination, faith and perseverence. It also says wonders about the strength of some parents and gives a good plug for a good education too ! It's hard to believe he survived the challenges that were thrown his way and I'm sure there are thousands of other real life stories that have the opposite, tragic outcomes.


Looking at how little (possessions, money, companionship) he had at times in his life, it is a lesson for us all that we should embrace what we have and remind ourselves how lucky we are. But perhaps more importantly, I think it also says we should feel pride in how hard we've worked in our own lives and what we've managed to achieve (so far).


A beautiful story, well told and acted. A remarkable human being and hero. 9/10.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Photo Blog #6: Cassette Tapes


Click on the image for a larger image to zoom into the individual titles

I took this shot this afternoon and now looking at it, it has a lot of history in it. In addition to personal memories, for past roommates and close friends, every tape has the potential to tell a story and recall a special moment in time. For the more pedestrian
reader, perhaps the photo marks a moment in time when audio cassettes were common place and a you'd find a collection like this at any friend's apartment. I also have to give a little credit for the composition to a photo collection I saw at the Contact and Luminato festivals this year.

For the record, this collection is of the tapes that were close at hand. I've thrown out a lot of tapes over the years and kept many cassette inserts to remind me of the old content. At one point in time I counted the number of "mixed" tapes I'd made - over 100. I'm pretty sure my entire tape collection was double this number at one point in time. The tapes I've kept are mostly compilations of tracks that perhaps are a little hard to come by these days. Like records, I also feel that these compilations also mark a moment in time, maybe like a
"mlog" ! Just handling these tapes this afternoon triggered a nostalgic reflex so I played a few old records for the family, incl. New Order, The Shuffle Demons, Thomas Dolby The (English) Beat. And yes, I do still have a tape player connected to my stereo. You never know when you'll get the urge to hear Men Without Hats.

Photo Blog #6: Cassette Tapes


Click on the image for a larger image to zoom into the individual titles

I took this shot this afternoon and now looking at it, it has a lot of history in it. In addition to personal memories, for past roommates and close friends, every tape has the potential to tell a story and recall a special moment in time. For the more pedestrian
reader, perhaps the photo marks a moment in time when audio cassettes were common place and a you'd find a collection like this at any friend's apartment. I also have to give a little credit for the composition to a photo collection I saw at the Contact and Luminato festivals this year.

For the record, this collection is of the tapes that were close at hand. I've thrown out a lot of tapes over the years and kept many cassette inserts to remind me of the old content. At one point in time I counted the number of "mixed" tapes I'd made - over 100. I'm pretty sure my entire tape collection was double this number at one point in time. The tapes I've kept are mostly compilations of tracks that perhaps are a little hard to come by these days. Like records, I also feel that these compilations also mark a moment in time, maybe like a
"mlog" ! Just handling these tapes this afternoon triggered a nostalgic reflex so I played a few old records for the family, incl. New Order, The Shuffle Demons, Thomas Dolby The (English) Beat. And yes, I do still have a tape player connected to my stereo. You never know when you'll get the urge to hear Men Without Hats.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Photo Blog #5: Remembrance Day, 2008

WWI, "The war to end all wars " ended 90 years ago today. I will always feel deeply thankful for the sacrifices that our veterans selfishly made and I applaud the commitment and bravery our military have today.




Monday, November 10, 2008

Watching, reading and listening updates

I've seen some very good movies of late at home: Into the Wild, Iron Man and Awake. There should be something there for everyone, well maybe not my kids or my wife !
  • Awake - Great thriller, but it was over a bit too quickly (how often do you say that?). As someone else had reviewed - a little Hitchcock like. Synopsis doesn't really tell the whole story. 4/5.
  • Iron Man - Lots of fun, especially with Downey Jr. hamming it up. Robot cool. Interesting BD live quizzes and bonus features on BD too ! 4/5.
  • Into the Wild - Great movie mixing good pacing, fantastic acting, beautiful cinematography and thought provoking storytelling. 4/5.
I'm not a big reader, but the one I'm enjoying at the moment is Lovely Bones. It's a bit of a chic lit book, but I really like the premise of the story. I just found out that the movie version is in post-production for release in 2009.

There are a few new angles on music I've been thinking about. Maybe it's my middle age, but the gentle sounds of Daniel Lanois, Beth Rowley, and Neil Diamond are getting more attention, especially in quieter times (and I seem to need more of those these days). I've been listening a little to
CBC Radio 2 in the morning. And even enjoying the odd country track, like Dolly Parton's Jolene.









Still on the music thing, and back to my normal channel, the
new Kaiser Chiefs is really catchy, looking forward to seeing them next week !

And finishing up with some TV. Apart from my faves like
Top Gear (old episodes), House and Entourage, I just watched the premiere of another quirky HBO show last night called Summer Heights High. The Australian show stars and is written, and produced by the very talented Chris Lilley. Immediately funny and it brings back that familiar awkward feeling from The Office.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Americans deserve some good news

Over the last 8 years, they have been poked fun for electing one of the worst presidents of all time. Americans need a break and to gain some international respect.

Of course the big news is that America has elected its first black president. But I think there are other aspects that are important.
Barack Hussein Obama II - there's a lot in that name. For one, I'm not sure if how many (if any) past presidents were first generation Americans (With Obama's father being Kenyan) . Someone asked me the other day if I thought America was ready for a black president. I said yes and my hopes are with many Americans in Obama and his chance to make a difference.

Just looking at some of the international reaction to the news was amazing this morning. It's like the world is sharing in America's joy. It seems ok today to love America and Americans for finally electing someone the world can respect. As one late night host said recently, there's probably some concern that the expectations are unrealistic. I hope we can view his progress with a healthy reality check and recognize the small changes moving forward.


But the sober thought is that he is only one man and the health and fate of America are controlled by many politicians, let's hope that many of them are drinking the Obama Kool-Aid, but some will not share in the enthusiasm for change.


I've heard some secondhand negative comments on Obama from Canadians re: the best president for Canada. I'm waiting on the full report from my west coast political consultant.


Apart from strong republicans, the only other sad folks are probably the comedy writers. The last 8 years have been pretty comical if you have a taste for that kind of humour.

Congratulations America, I'm happy for you guys.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Do you care who wins ?

It's Saturday morning and I'm just having breakfast and watching a little footy. Arsenal aren't on until later, so I'm not glued, but immediately was interested in the game being shown because it was 0-0 between two middle-of-the-pack teams in the second half. So I'm watching enjoying the ebb and flow that the game is renowned for. And I'm enjoying the attacks by both teams. I don't really have a preference on who wins this one, so I can simply enjoy the game.

I've always questioned a business friend of mine who is a big sports fan but doesn't support our local teams. It seems he really doesn't have many favourites at all in sport. I always feel that people like him and people who are more casual observers miss a large element of a sport if it doesn't matter to you who wins. That whole history of the team, the local and international passions and emotions, the heightened drama of local derbys, etc -
they miss out.

However, there's the rub. If you commit yourself to a favourite, a local team, your home country, a team you follow closely and really want to succeed, then you're inevitably left disappointed on many days when they fail (just ask an England football fan). Perhaps this is why so many sports fans follow the big sports teams. They lower their risk of occasional disappointment, but still share in the highs.
As an dded bonus, they're probably save a lot more money not wanting to buy the latest jersey for the favourite team too !

So what's best ? Loyally follow your favourite local team through thick and thin or simply enjoy the sport as a non-partisan observer. Do you hate that sinking feeling of watching your team lose a heartbreaker ? I'm not saying you switch off completely from a great sport, but you can perhaps enjoy that sport more if you have less invested. You can enjoy the sport for what it is, a competition of teams that can both offer great skill, passion, class and determination. You can share in the joy of their victories and empathize a little when they fall short of their goals. You get it all. The only difference perhaps is the degree of emotions you exposure yourself to.
The thrill of victory or the agony of defeat.

Everton just scored. Great goal. It won't shape my mood for the rest of the day, but I'm glad I saw it live !

[I wrote the title of this blog after I wrote the content. I was struggling a little with an appropriate title, but thought this one was ok. However, it maybe broadens the topic beyond sport. After all, a rational person shouldn't really care about such non-important things as sport. But how about political races ? For the non-US readers - do you care who wins the US Presidential Election ? If it wasn't for the fact that the fate of the world was going to be put in the hands of a new player, it would be a pretty entertaining game, no ? More thoughts for a later post].

Friday, October 31, 2008

My Favourite Videos of 2008

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the bands I would love to see. One of those bands was The Killers. Ten days ago, I commented on my frustration at not being able to get tickets to see them play at Massey Hall in November. As an update to that, I found out this week that they will be coming back in January to play the Air Canada Centre. Massey Hall would have been a great venue, but I am now in possession of general admission floor tickets to Air Canada Centre!! So I am pretty excited. I have never been on the floor for a general admission show at ACC (I have for seated concerts). Looking forward to it.

In the weeks to come, I will be starting to look at the songs I loved in 2008. In the past, I have given a CD to friends of my top 20 songs. Since I have been blogging about the songs I have been loving (and have a list on the right), it seems a bit redundant. So I have decided to look at different categories, like best single, best album, best lyrics, best live act, etc.

I will start by sharing some of my favourite videos. I don't watch many videos, so feel free to add your favourite to my list of candidates. Official nominees will be announced in a few weeks.

The first one is by a band called Skint & Demoralised. I have been loving them for a few months now, but their music is not officially released on this side of the Atlantic yet. Here's the video released this week for their upcoming first single (being released in the UK in November).



He came up with the idea and it's his friend's first professional production. I love the angles, the lighting and the mystery of the paper. Part of me would love to know what was written on it, but I know that it's so much better for it to remain a mystery. Only a couple of the meetings were staged, but the best reactions were genuine. Love it. Since I first heard this song, I had such a vivid image in my mind of the song. It's interesting to see a different perspective (it's interesting to see a video of a song you have loved for a while as opposed to hearing a song the first time with the video).

Here's a video that is beautiful, breathtaking and heartbreaking (the album was released in 2007, but the video in 2008). James Blunt's Carry You Home. Again, this gives a completely different meaning to the song for me:



Here's the video for possibly my favourite song of 2008...Viva La Vida by Coldplay. Love the lighting, the colours and the fact that it's just the band and the song. I think this song is complete enough without a lot of stuff to distract from it.



Just to show that I'm not only showing artists I love, here's Madonna's 4 minutes...great dancing, great effects, great video:



A beautiful video for Adele's Chasing Pavement. Great song...Beautiful scene...love the shadows.



The Kooks' Always Where I Need to Be...fun and as a Canadian loves scenes of bands playing when they're cold...great jacket!!



Oasis - The Shock of the Lightning...very artistic...very busy...takes lots of viewings to catch everything...Beatles-like if I imagined the Beatles making a modern video.



Proof that I'm getting old. I have been reading about the Ting Tings for months and haven't been able to appreciate the music. Click here for the video (viewed over 6 million times - they have disabled embedding so I can't embed it into my blog)...cool video, but I can't get into the music.


I Will Possess Your Heart by Death Cab For Cutie
I confess, I haven't watched the whole thing yet, but I will - it's over 8 minutes long but the cinematography is gorgeous.




I will end with The Killers' new video, Human. Most of The Killers' videos for Human were disabled. This one has a Maroon 5 video tagged at the end, it's a great video but not sure if it's from 2008 or 2007. I'll look into it before I announce my nominees.





What's your favourite video of 2008?

Fighting procrastination - one slow step at a time

Here's one approach to chipping away at your procrastination problem. Make a commitment to do something. But that's it, nothing more. Because that would mean actually doing something. But by making a commitment to do it, you've convinced yourself you're tackling a long overdo problem and maybe you even have a plan. But don't go crazy, don't announce that plan yet, why ? Because people expect dates with a plan. And dates bring pressure and new expectations. With a commitment, you have the immediate joy of taking a positive step in the right direction, you can freely talk all about the decision you've finally made and cleverly rid yourself of the burden of inaction and indecision. However, you've made sure that you really don't have to do anything, yet. Brilliant.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Top 10 reasons you should let people know it's your birthday

10. People like wishing other people Happy Birthday.
9. Remembering your roots.

8. A good reason to check Facebook.

7. You get to spoil yourself a little.

6. An opportunity to reflect on life and share quotes like
"I used to dread getting older because I thought I would not be able to do all the things I wanted to do. But now that I am older, I find that I don't want to do them anyway" (Lady Astor).
5. A chance to get lucky.

4. A good excuse for the bosses in your life when you have a long lunch, don't return the email as quickly as normal or forget something.

3. A pleasant reminder of one of the most important things in life - that you have friends and there are people that care about you.

2. Extra hugs and attention from your kids.

1. An excuse to get together with ya mates and do boy stuff.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Relax, it's not you

Do you ever get a little hurt when someone you're close to says something that you think is a personal stab. They say something or say it in a way that you feel is reserved for you ? That line or saying that just pushes your buttons and may cause the regrettable, reflexive I-wish-I-could-take-that-back response. These types of sentence structures or wordage are prefixes that grind on you and can formulate repeated annoyances, personal stress fractures or worse, life long grudges.

Well relax, it's not you. They speak that way and say those things to other people too. It's such a relief when you overhear them say those words to another person. You immediately go
hey, whew, or what ? It's not just me that they say that too ! It's not personal. It's just their phrasing or words they commonly use when they're trying to make a point or in an argument.

This just happened a few minutes ago. I love it.

Friday, October 17, 2008

It's official - I'm past it

Today, I had the luxury of a little time to wander around one of my favourite streets in Toronto, doing some window shopping and seeing if anything caught my eye as an early birthday gift for myself. Queen Street West has always been tops in my personal tour guide of Toronto, both for street cred casual entertainment and fashion. I walked into a lot of shops and I even tried a few things on, but I couldn't pull the trigger on any of the clothes I was seeing. The items I my wish list don't seem to exist today, well, at least not in the cool shops. I think I used to be quite modern in my attire and kept up with most fashions and maybe even led the pack within my small social circles. However since spending a few years now in my forties, I think I have to admit I'm passed it in terms of hip male fashion. I can pull off the sporty-guy look, the dinner party guy and of course the business and formal stuff, but I don't think I have it when it comes to today's street fashion. Sadly, I ended up the walk at a department store picking up a new scarf and hat and some much needed, shirts for work. Sad. But on the way back to the office, I did stop at the gaming event tent to hang with the kids and check out the new PS3 games - groovy man.

Observations from the foodcourt

My orange juice - "Great New Taste" - its just orange juice folks, what could possibly be new about it ?

Communication breakdown - next-in-line dude trying to order his lunch from very thick-accented East Indian Tim Horton's server - lots of uhs, whats and looks of complete nonrecognition to questions about toastedness and payment options. I actually laughed out loud.

Still s lot of backward looking walkers - motto bellagrosso.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The story of me and the man who may not vote tonight

I was just walking to the polling station to vote for the local candidate in tonight's federal election. I noticed an old man across the street that was walking very slowly aided by an empty push-along shopping cart. He was slowing even more as he approached the big hill before the polling station. I continued my hasty walk, but then thought I'd see if I could perhaps return home and get the car and drive us both to our destination. So I asked him if I could help. He surprised me by saying he was trying to get home and was a little lost. He said he'd already voted and he was looking for #73 of the same street where I live at #74. But I didn't recognize him. He told me his name was William and the name of the lady he lives with. I ask him a few times if he's sure it's #73. He thinks so, but I can tell he's a little confused so we look through his wallet. Luckily I found a cheque with the address #37. So I offer to drive him home. I run back to the house, get the car and was relieved to see he hadn't disappeared on my return. I take him home and he tells me a little more about himself and he offers me his last $5 for the ride. I refuse and escort him up the walk to his home (he also asked if I liked rye or whiskey - I said we might have a drink together one day). A lady then greets us and says "you've found the wanderer have you?". Then she goes on to say they've been messed around with elections Canada and had gone to the wrong polling station. She seemed more upset by elections Canada then her missing partner. I offer to drive William back, but he refuses saying "he's had enough for the night". Apparently a car was on it's way to drive him to the correct polling station but who knows whether William will vote tonight.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Political debates

I watched the Canadian leaders debate last night rather than the comedy show of the vice-presidential candidate debate in the US.

I'm far from an expert on Canadian politics, economics is not my forte, and a don't have a great memory for past political history. I guess that makes me a dangerous voter. However I did my citizen duty and paid attention to the 2 hour debate last night. But as a Canadian, I think my viewpoint and comments are valid.

The unfortunate thing is that rather than a true debate on national topics, political debates typically turn to attacking the current prime minister. That was very evident last night and definitely skews the debate.

I think the moderator and organizers did a great job focusing on the topics that concern Canadians the most: the economy, crime, the environment, healthcare, Afghanistan, the arts, priorities and trust.

So, breaking all the rules of safe topics in polite conversation, I'll try and summarize my thoughts on the party leaders:

Elizabeth May, Green Party - smart, funny, well articulated. Appearing to side a little to the right, but not holding back from vicious attacks on Harper. A pleasant surprise showing that the Greens have a much broader platform than just the environment. A little green, but I like her.

Gilles Duceppe, Bloc Quebecois - well spoken, knowledgeable, but a little wacky. Obviously his Quebec only focus taints his arguments, and referring to good news from Quebec is ok, but he's not the premier of Quebec. A little radical, but I like the guy.

Jack Layton, New Democratic Party - a angry man and not very classy. Doing a good job buddying up to the common man (and woman) and especially, the blue collar worker. I could see his point and who he's speaking for, but I just don't like his constant confrontational approach and his lack of respect for his political competitors. I don't like him, sorry.

Stephane Dion, Liberal - a frustrated professor type who can't communicate his thoughts very well or perhaps his plans are so muddled he's confused himself. There may be some very good things he's saying, but I have a real challenge understanding him. Yes, he English is very poor, but it's more than that, his delivery is very confusing. Maybe it's me, but I find his arguments are all over the map, appearing incomplete, and inconsistent. Sorry, but I don't think this guy could lead and organize a dinner party, never mind a country. I'm very disappointed the Liberals couldn't find a better leader to represent their ideas and pose a better opposition to the PC's.

Stephen Harper, Progressive Conservative - calm, confident and smart. I got a little uncomfortable that he was telling us about lots of good things he's doing as prime minister today, but I didn't have a clear understanding of how well these programs have worked as opposed to his failures, and how bad our economy really is (my bad). Obviously, personal finances are suffering greatly today, but I'm thinking that a large part of that is to do with US investments. I don't think it's easy to separate the Canadian economy from the US. I may be a little unpopular by this view, but I don't think the economy is that bad here in Canada. What I do find is that we have some clear issues with the environment, crime and healthcare. In most of these other topics, Harper's comments on his plans and past decisions, seemed to make sense to me. I'm not pleased with his lack of commitment to the environment, and I still don't completely trust him (but I don't think I can trust any of the other candidates with running the country for the first time, in these difficult times). I think he's still the best choice for prime minister.

Listening to the news this morning, I wondering if I saw a different show, so I may not be speaking on behalf of most Canadians. But are my views similar to my readers ?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Mass transit can cause massive problems

I walked home with thousands of people last night.

A very busy section of the
subway was shut down during the evening rush hour yesterday. It turns out electrical cables fell on the tracks near Eglinton station (my closest station). The trains were turning back at Bloor and Lawrence about 6 kms apart. Faced with a few of these situations in the past, I typically resort to walking. So I walked 4kms home with thousands of other people shoulder to shoulder on the street and surrounded by jammed roads and the overcrowded stand-in shuttle buses. It took me about an hour. A lady here at the office waited patiently for a shuttle bus and got home in 3 hours.

I contemplated my thoughts on the walk:

  • A little irony here - this happens a day after the announcement of the massive regional transportation plan.
  • I noticed that many people didn't seem to be used to walking. Perhaps the daily routine was a short shuffle to the bus stop and and a transfer to the subway, but a good healthy city walk was foreign to them. Walking etiquette and pace was inconsistent and of course footwear was an issue. I was hoping I wouldn't witness a heart attack. Surprisingly, I only saw a few smokers (or are smokers more likely to drive?) and every other person was telling the tale via their cell phone.
  • The bars were doing a cracking business.
  • I imagine that people driving their cars around the suburbs listening to this news on the radio, or even sitting in their cars along Yonge street were thinking - these people are crazy, why take the subway if you have a choice to take your car ? It just gives public transit a very bad image, especially in times when we're trying to promote it's environmental benefits.
  • A lot of people don't know their city very well and rarely take a look around or get above ground for a peek. Some people were unclear of what the major streets were, how far they were walking and a few weren't even clear on the direction they should be walking. There was lots of people looking in shop and restaurant windows, obviously clueless to the wonderful shopping and dining you can find thru midtown Toronto.
  • Canadians are often described as a tolerant bunch and I could say that that was evident last night. There wasn't a lot of yelling or complaining, just an acceptance that things don't always go to plan and you just get on with it.
  • I was glad I'd decided to leave my laptop and (heavy) external drive at the office - it made the carry home a little more bearable.
When mass transit hits a serious snag like yesterday, it produces a massive problem for tens of thousands of people. I hope the TTC (disappointing there's no formal apology on their front page) and the regional public transportation authorities truly understand that the service they provide to the public is essential for the health of a modern thinking, metropolitan city.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Investing in your passions


Who needs or deserves your money more - Purnomo the meatball vendor in Indonesia or Sexy Marvin, the indy rock band from Mexico ?

I'm not a great economist, money manager, investor, cash flow maximizer or accountant, so digest this post with a generous sprinkling of salt.

I've recently heard of two financial products that allow you to invest your money in some new ways. These new financial products touch on two interesting facets of everyday life, but are on opposite ends of the responsibility spectrum. Charity and music.

My cousin, and like-minded music fan, pointed me to a financial "product" a few weeks ago called
Bandstocks. The idea is that you make small (or large) investments in an unsigned musical talent. It could be considered an easy way to truly put your money where your mouth is with respect to "good" music. If you really think band XYZ is going to be the next big thing, then invest your money. It doesn't have to be much, but it can pay dividends, long term returns and provide non-financial benefits as well.

My wife told me about an interesting concept tonight about investing in individual businesses in developing countries. The investment is made easy by
kiva.org and was mentioned in Bill Clinton's book Giving.

I simply like the idea that you're not just donating your money to a charity or a hard up musician. Instead, your making a conscious decision to say, I believe in something strongly enough and something that I'm passionate about, and I believe it will be a success. But rather investing in Apple or pork bellies that you may not really care too much about, you can perhaps say to yourself...great, if my bet works out, everyone's a winner, but if not, I've made a pseudo donation
(I'm not certain if these investments are also tax deductible) and given someone else in the world a chance to make it. Or you could simply cozy up to the karma gods and embrace a no-strings-attached, pay it forward doctrine (but that's a whole other topic).