Sunday, April 28, 2013


One man sang of peace and love. He thought that he could change the world. Not because he had more wisdom or power than the rest of us, but because thought that all of us have power and that all of us could change the world, if we really desired to do so.

Another man sang about life, about the sadness of life, about the strength of life; of losing of cheating of regret, of hanging on. He approached the world one person at a time, one story at a time, one song at a time, by showing us who we are and what we've done and the consequences thereof.

Richie Havens was a singer who rose to instant national and international prominence with his performance at the original Woodstock. Richie was the opening act, in broad daylight, before the soon to be legendary crowd had surged onto the farm land. That image is forever etched in my mind: Richie, alone on the stage, just with his acoustic guitar, shouting out Freedom/Motherless Child.

It's an absolutely riveting performance. Richie's eyes are closed, he is slightly rocking back and forth on his chair, his hand a blur as he worked the string on his guitar. His voice is raspy and strong and filled with emotion and entirely on key.

Richie's message was one of peace and understanding and it was a message of which he sang right up until his death last week. That is to be commended, many artists from that time period jumped on the peace wagon because it was the fashion of the moment, Mr Havens rode that train his entire life because it was taking him to the only destination that, for him, made sense.

For me though, as a kid, Richie showed me that a solo performer with an acoustic instrument could rock just as hard as a band full of electricity. I had yet to discover people like Robert Johnson and Blind Lemon Jefferson who, could, with one similar instrument convey worlds or emotion and feeling and yes, rock out.

George Jones was no rocker and there was very little politics in his music. But George Jones was a country bluesman. His music, melodically, had very little in common with John Lee Hooker, or Johnson or but in terms of his lyrics, he was a bluesman. There are powerful connections between traditional country music and traditional blues; many people feel that the combination of the two created rock n roll.

George sang of loss, of heartache, of regret, good old fashioned cheatin songs in a controlled voice that nonetheless was easily able to control emotion. When I heard of his recent passing I flashbacked to my mother dancing in her kitchen and singling along to the lyrics as George played from the radio.

Although I grew up listening to George's music I wasn't a fan, he was a little too "country" for me, I more gravitated to artists like Johnny Cash who could integrate elements of rock and even pop into his music. But as I listen to what passes as country now, essentially watered down pop music sang with a twang, I can admire George for his authenticity.

Richie Havens and George Jones, at first glance, seem to be worlds apart. The socially active hippie who appeared in a kaftan and the Nashville showman who favored sequined suits. But Authentic is the word that can be applied to both men; they were inspired by a vision and they stuck to it for their entire careers.

Change the world by singing about the world, change the world by singing about the individuals in said room. Be real, be passionate, hang on to the end.

And when you pass, the world will notice, it will indeed be changed by that fact.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


It's been about a year since I posted anything on my other blog, dedicated to video creation, but festival season is once again upon us so that blog is becoming active

There, that was fair warning. Don't blame me

So don't look here, look down there ....

Idiot With A Camera

Good luck

Monday, April 22, 2013


We lose people. Throughout our lives we lose people, we're careless that way.

We find people, people come into our lives, or people are already there as our lives begin. People find us and we find them.

But for every person you find, you have people you lose. Generally the people who are there when you come into the world are people you will eventually lose. Parents, grandparents, those people who welcomed you, eventually you will usher them out.

That's how life works.

Then you have the people you find; friends, work mates, life mates. You will lose some of those as well and I don't just mean to death, though of course that can happen as well. I mean losing people, the people who pass into your life will also pass out. Not everyone but if you're honest, most of them. I know people who have literal life long friends, I know people who marry their child hood friends. I know people who meet people in high school, college, their first job, who will be with them at the end.

That happens.

But you will lost more people than the ones you hang on to. That's life too, it's natural. From school, from work, from some social situation, you will find someone, you will become friends then somewhere along the line, you will lose them, they will pass away.

Sometimes you will lose them to enmity, to a falling out, to a disagreement that cannot be overcome. Others will just pass away, go to college, to another job, to another person. No disagreement, just moving on, passing through.

Tony Lever was my best friend in high school. I can say that with as much conviction as I can say anything. We actually met in grade eight, at Kingscourt Public School in Kingston. Tony pretty much lived across the street from the school. Our highschool, Q.E., was a couple more blocks up the street. In those days you could do five years in high school and Tony and I were close friends through all those years.

We were considered, by many people, to be an odd couple. Way back then in the 70's Tony was pretty much the definition of a preppie. I was pretty much the definition of "that long haired weirdo" I was known as a poet and a writer, Tony was a genius. No, really, he was. He would average 100 on some of his academic scores .. average .. 100. I never really understood that but still, he did.

Back in those days about the only fiction I read was either classical Greek or science fiction. Tony would look at the cover of my latest intergalactic adventure and go "Oh, ok" Tony liked, mostly, what music was playing on the radio, I tended towards pretentious noodling like Van derGraf Generator or early Roxy Music.

On the surface, we didn't have a lot in common. Neither of us were into sports, we both like music and art even if we diverged a bit in taste. Tony had a great sense of humour, it was sly and subtle, the dude was smart and it carried over to his wit.

Tony was interested in architecture and art history and had many opportunities to study abroad, I know he spend time in Venice on some kind of scholarship. So Tony passed out of my life to pursue his passions. I re connected with him once more, in the early 80's, he had just moved to Toronto and had a little apartment down on Church Street and was decorating the bathroom ceiling with kites.

That was the last time I saw him. I recently read that Tony had passed, he died last year after fighting cancer for four years. He was living in Toronto and had been working at Revenue Canada. He was a couple years younger me. It's sad that he died so young and it's tragic that he had to fight so hard for so long to stay alive.

It's sad that we passed out of each others lives but not a huge sadness. We were friends the entire time we knew each other, we never had a rift or a falling out, we just passed out of each others lives. I lost Tony, he lost me but we found our own lives, our own partners, our own futures.

Losing someone is not always a loss. It can be a sign of growth, for both of you.

We lose people. We find ourselves.

Friday, April 19, 2013


When I was a kid there was a fair amount of sci fi on TV, from the very good like Star Trek to the not so great like Time Tunnel. Sci fi has always been on TV but its popularity ebbs and flows. Now, with speciality channels like Syfy in the States and Space here, there is more sci fi than ever before.

Kids, it ain't all good. But recently I've began watching two new sci fi series, both of them locally produced.

Orphan Black is not only shot in Toronto, it actually takes place in Toronto. Produced by BBC America and airing on Space with episodes available on

Defiance is also shot  in Toronto but it definitely is not set here. It's actually an American show, produced for Syfy channel and it's airing on Showtime.

Both shows are locally produced but that's about where the similarities end. Defiance, is a fairly traditional sci fi series; it's set on a future Earth in a time where visiting aliens, several different races, have tried to make a home here to the point of terraforming the planet, we sort of objected to this concept, we fight a war and now there is a draw, with the Earth basically in ruins.

Our hero is a human with an alien "adopted daughter" and they find themselves in the city of Defiance which exists in the ruins of St. Louis. It is a frontier outpost besieged by raiders, beset by culture clashes, dominated by a wealthy miner and filled with prostitutes, gamblers and fighters. The hero finds himself in a situation where he has to serve as the town's Lawkeeper. Yeh, it's a Western.

Now, sci fi Westerns are nothing new, it's a fairly traditional hybrid. Also familiar is the concept of several different races, human and alien, trying to co exist together. That's one of the basic premises of most space operas, from Star Trek to Babylon Five.

Also traditional is how these alien races are presented; some weird contact lenses, an application over the nose, some funky hair and voila we have an alien; maybe allow a race to be able to manipulate energy, make another race very tribal, another race warriors who indulge in body modifications .. and don't think about much else. Why make a character an alien if he's going to act exactly like a human being, with the same motivations, the same desires, the same physical and facial expressions.

The show is well produced, the main character as portrayed by Grant Bowler is entertaining, the cynical ex soldier with the heart of gold, again not entirely original but Bowler makes him watchable. Graham Greene portrays the mine owner but as much as admire Greene, he seems to be phoning in his performance. The town's resident bad guys are so stereotypically evil they're almost laughable.

The series is handsomely made, and there may be some hope for it, the backstory certainly needs to be filled in and perhaps we'll learn more things about these aliens that will make them compelling. There is an ongoing mystery as set up in the first episode and lots of possibilities to make it interesting but that could be a long journey. Let's hope it will be worth it.

Orphan Black is also a mystery but that's where any similarity with Defiance ends. Where Defiance is clearly sci fi, fitting neatly into a couple of sub genres thereof, Orphan Black at first glance, barely qualifies

In the first episode we meet Sarah, a young woman oprhaned in her native Britain and brought here to Canada. She is not your typical hero; grifter, thief, drifter, selector of horrible boyfriends, she has a daughter whom she has not seen in 10 months. Standing on a train platform she watches a woman deliberately jump in front of a train, and the woman looks exactly like her ...

From here on in Orphan Black functions pretty much as a mystery. The sci fi component comes in the form of the fact that there seem to be several Sarahs. She starts out assuming the identity of the dead woman in order to rob her and finds herself quite quickly, way over her head.

There is a classic kind of thriller where an innocent person finds themselves involved in a dangerous fast moving conspiracy. I've always enjoyed these kinds of stories and so far, a couple of episodes in, Orphan Black seems a fine example. Of course, Sarah may not be as innocent as she feels and this just adds to the fun

Whereas Defiance fills its story with a lot of cliches and characters unrealized, one of the things I enjoy most about Orphan Black are indeed the characters. Sarah is a conflicted character, all of her choices are entirely selfish and venal and she rushes forward far more than she thinks. Part of the fun is how other versions of her come with entirely different persepectives

The scripts are really good, there is attention to detail and more importantly a really clever sense of humour. But this concept wouldn't work without a really strong actor and Tatiana Maslany delivers a really stunning performance, it's really going to be fun to watch her as all the Sarahs.

I'm already pretty much hooked on Orphan Black. Now, I've been burnt by these kinds of stories before, there's always the possibility that the story will unravel or just come to a screeching halt. But the performances and the witty script is worth the risk.

I'll check out another episode of Defiance but it has a lot to prove me. I defiantly wait for it to prove itself .. yes, I went there, shut up.

So choose as you will: A future story far from perfect and a story set in the present that is not perfect, but pretty damn good.

Monday, April 8, 2013


It's an age old, oft asked question: What does my mean? What does she want? I wish she could talk!!

Well, we know that dogs communicate, amongst themselves they use a combo of body posture, vocalizations, scent and factors we probably can't understand.

With us, they communicate the way we teach them: We teach to "speak" but really all they are doing is giving a conditioned response to a preset signal. It's a learned behaviour, not necessarily how the dog would choose to communicate with us

I think that for every time we say "I wish I knew what she ways saying!" the dog is thinking "Why doesn't he hear what I'm saying"

Well, with the help of Terra, I've created a little video guide to help you interpret Dog
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