Thursday, January 21, 2016


It's been a rough couple of weeks for music and those who love it

As I write this Glenn Frey of the the Eagles has passed. Earlier, of course, David Bowie died. And shortly before that, Lemmie of Moorhead shuffled off his mortal panhead

It's sad for anyone who was a fan of these musicians. It's remarkable when you think about it, that you can actually be saddened by the passing of some person whom you've never met. But that's how music affects us, it literally affects us, in that it can change our mood, our emotions, perhaps even our outlook. It's powerful stuff and when one of our artists dies, it can affect us powerfully

I've written before about this compulsion we seem to have to try to quantify things. Everything. And yes, to some extent, you can quantify music. That note was off. That refrain is derivative. What the hell kind of rhythm is that. But you can still like the music. It doesn't matter, even if you can quantify the piece of art, it can not and should not change how you feel about it

Yet there are those who want to do exactly that. They are called music critics. And generally, I guess they do that job cuz their local McDonalds wasn't looking for new help

Some of the stuff written about the Eagles has me wondering if some of these so called critics actually listen to music or even enjoy it at all. I have a feeling they don't care. Because a lot of the crap I have been reading is more grade school social commentary than music appreciation

Apparently I should hate the Eagles because they are from California. I should hate them because they were really successful. I should hate them because they made music that people wanted to hear. I should hate them because that over their career they generally stuck to their guns, musically speaking

The proximity of Frey's death to Bowie's was an unfortunate temporal event. Although people shouldn't compare the two, of course they did. Bowie was an artist who had a major impact on music, whose career spanned decades and who constantly reinvented himself. The Eagles were integral to a sub genre of music, California southern rock, they also spanned decades and they really never tried to reinvent themselves, even with the late addition of Joe Walsh

Bowie was probably a genius. Frey was a gifted songwriter and performer. You liked them or you didn't Really, that's what it comes down to. I am a huge Bowie fan, I've been listening to his music since high school. I am not a huge Eagles fan but I enjoy a lot of their music. If Take It Easy comes on the radio, it's getting cranked

I can give you reasons why I like both artists. To a degree I can quantify why that is. If we were discussing music, I may share that with you. As you would with me. But really, that doesn't mean very much in the long run. The long run is all about how the music affects you, how you relate to it, how you feel. There is no right and wrong in this

I guess music journalists have to write about something. It's actually a pretty specious exercise. Cuz, you know, they can't tell you how to feel about music. They can tell you how they feel and that can be legit but it has nothing to do with how you feel

But these articles are trying to do exactly that; here is how you should feel about the Eagles. And since they can't really speak to our emotional and deep personal connection to music they have to come up with all this grade school sociology and weak urban commentary to justify their point. The point is, they have no point. It's just air. Black marks on a white screen

Yes, and these are my black marks on a white screen. This is my air ... you may want to open a window. But I'm not trying to change your mind about how you feel about music. I could not and I would not (I channelled Dr Seuss just for a moment there)

What I'm trying to do is the opposite. Love the Eagles. Revile the Eagles. Worship David Bowie. Think David Bowie was a weirdo (though he'd take that as a compliment) It doesn't matter how I feel or how anyone else feels

You feel. That's it. Just do that. Just play the music and feel it

Roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair (Bruce Sprinsteen) And when Lemmi grunts out The Ace of Spades, just turn the radio up

Saturday, January 9, 2016


Yup. Words. So tough to deal with sometimes. So obtuse. Good thing we don't need them in order to communicate. Eh

Two stories that highlight the problem with trying to communicate with words, one from the big old scary world and one from less big but equally scary personal world

Let's start with the real world. A tale of words and how the enemy of all humanity, Political Correctness, wants to use them to control our very thoughts.

Laurentian University in Sudbury has a psychology professor named Persinger who teaches a course in which he uses "salty" and profane language. In this day and age where our precious little school students would rather Instagram than think about things they find icky, he realized that some of his pupils would find this language offensive and, god forbid, "micro aggressive"

So Persinger had the students sign a waiver. It included examples of the language which included the f bomb, the c word (no, not cat) and an insulting term for a homosexual person that resembles an old expression for a bundle of sticks. If you didn't like this sort of language, perhaps this course would not be for you

Well. A student complained. About the form. About even having to think about something they may find offensive and dealing with it. "Er, you want me to decide what I find offensive? Um no, Mommy said I don't have to think. You think for me, and just don't offend me. Or I will cry. And Mommy will sue you"

Well, universities, apparantly these days, are places for suppressing thought, not encouraging it. So when the little darling got his Gap nappies in a twist, the administration came to his rescue. "There there darling, no need to think, this institution of learning will save you from that. Now just make sure Mommy keeps writing us those cheques"

And Persinger has been pulled from teaching the class. The admin says this has nothing to do with freedom of speech, it has to do with the prof overstepping his station and asking the students to sign a contract. Tsk tsk. The university does not allow this sort of thing, this is interfering with curriculum and had they been aware ...

Well Prof Persinger has been handing out these forms for ten years. On the recommendation of his dean at the time. So, yeh. If the admin was unaware of this practise .. well let's just say I find that concept fishie as fucking hell (You did sign the waiver before reading this post didn't you)

Now, I live for irony and there is some major pants swelling irony at play here. The course that the prof was teaching? It was on the power and impact of language. Hence his use of possibly offensive words. THE WHOLE FUCKING POINT OF THE COURSE WAS THAT SOME PEOPLE GIVE WORDS THE POWER TO OFFEND. Well, I guess we now know that that is true.

For the love of god, if the little sphincter of yours that mommy wipes every day cannot deal with "bad words" why the hell sign up for the course in the first place.

Of course, the Political Correctness Nazis know all too well the power of words. And they want to take them away from us

OK big sigh now. And let's move on to something not quite as contentious. I know you need to dry your eyes and wipe your sphincter

I walk dogs. Or rather, I play with dogs. I play with them in a private lot owned by the man for whom I work. It's a fenced in lot, with trees and grass. It's in an old industrial area just on the northern border to Toronto's portlands. It is tucked behind a waste management company and a bus garage, there are no signs and there is no yellow brick road. It is private and we like that you can drive right by the place and never know it's there. In this city where people poison dog cookies in public parks, we like our anonymity.

I describe this place as a park. I always call it a private park. And oh my goodness, that seems to confuse some people.

When I say park, even when prefaced with "private" people think they know this place. "Oh Cherry Beach, I go there"

No, not Cherry Beach. That is a public park. This one is private.

"Oh yeh right, I know the place, south of Lakeshore"

No, we are on Lakeshore, the north side

"Right, in the offish area"

No. You are thinking of a public park. This is a private park

"You can't have a public park"

Well, we do

"Right, I know where that one is ..""

Yeh, big sigh.

Wurds bee diff occult

Friday, January 1, 2016


It's a new year so let's start it off with a little death, shall we. In actuality, a lot of death

In the year 79 AD the Italian resort town of Pompeii, and its sister Herculean, were destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. It has become one of the most famous volcanic eruptions of all time, and one of the most well known mass tragedies of human life

The carnage and sadness has been brought to Toronto through an exhibition at the ROM. It's the Holidays, let's go celebrate!

On that day 2,000 people lost their lives, many to suffocating ash, some to the boiling pyroclastic flows from the volcano. What the ROM always does well is giving you an opportunity to see beyond the numbers and get an impression of what the town was, before and after the tragedy, and who it was that lived there

The first part of the exhibit gives us glimpses of what life in Pompeii was like before the eruption. Most of the pieces are arranged to show us the bustling, living town that was kind of the little jewel of the Roman empire at the time. They loved their theatre and they had two, both of which would have been as good as any in Rome at the time

Theatre was not their only form of entertainment. Of course they loved their gladiators and they sported a coliseum long before Rome did Here is some gladiator armour excavated from the site

But it wasn't all violence in old Pompeii, on no sir. You gots to have some sex mixed in with that, and golly gee, did they ever lover their sex. Prostitution was legal in the pre Christian Roman empire and the citizens of Pompeii were very much into expressing their legal rights. There were many advertisements for brothels and even in the homes of regular citizens you could find art depicting a wide variety of, er, adult fantasies, like this nymph being seduced by a satyr

Like all Romans, the people of the city sure did love them some religion. Not only worshipping their own gods (well the ones they liberated from the Greeks) they were eager to bring more exotic deities into their households, in particular the Egyptian goddess Isis, around whom they manufactured their own particular brand of worship. They worshipped something called Isis and their town got blowed up .. yeh, let's leave that one alone

The people of the town were fairly wealthy by common standards but in the long run they were just people, into their gardens and the bounty of the sea on which they feasted

Who knows what the future had in store for the city of Pompeii. Probably it would have grown, it would have lasted, maybe as a resort town you could visit today. But Vesuvius had other plans. In the course of a day the volcano wiped out the city. And years later it was rediscovered, literally dug out from a mountain of ash. Ash that fell down from the sky, burying all those humans, hardening, remaining intact as time dissolved the bodies and left their impressions so that archeologists could pour in plaster, and in a sense, reanimate the citizens of Pompeii

Some sought shelter in wine cellars yet were still overcome by the ash. Some left their shelter when the ash seemed to stop falling, only to be caught by a pyroclastic flow. Humans, overcome by something greater than themselves

Some seemed to be able to come to peace with their fate, and simply waited for the darkness to take them

 Humans were not the only ones to fall to the volcano. The people of Pompeii loved their dogs, as evidenced by this famous entranceway tile. Cave carnem it says. Beware of dog

And beware you should be. He guarded his house right till the end.

All sad stuff, much of which I knew, or had read about. But the exhibit brought the reality home. By giving me a view of Pompeii as a living, vibrant city, I truly felt the tragedy of its death. Sad that all those people died. But the remnants they left behind, even the impressions of their own bodies, really serves to remind us of their lives, lived so long ago

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