Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Monday, May 28, 2007
My fears were justified, they even Fed-Ex'd the damn thing! I am still recovering from the press screening of Rise: Blood Hunter that we went to last week. It is way too soon to tackle another horror movie! I got into hot water with Rise, seeing as it has already aired at the Tribbeca Film Fest, I launched my review, the PR folks were pissed at me! The normal practice in the reviewing world is not to publish until the day the movie is released, but this had been widely talked about and screened so I went ahead.
Oh, and another pile of CD's arrived today. I was trying to at least put things in neat piles at the weekend, and I was alarmed when I discovered that the pile of DVD's and CD's received in the last couple of months was about 2 feet high! The book pile is even higher!
One incredibly high spot in the day was an email that I received. Recently I reviewed Peter Davies' fine novel Scatterlings of Africa, it transpires that one of peter's friends is a best selling author in England, and he has invited me to review his upcoming book, and interview him. Now that made my day!
Life is good!
Sunday, May 27, 2007
The first sign of trouble was when Jan couldn't get into her web site, then I couldn't get into one of mine. I knew they were both hosted on the BeerBox, and my first reaction was shock, Linux had finaly crashed! Of couse the BeerBox, is just that, no screen, or other parafenalia is attached to it, it just sits and runs for months on end.
My first plan of attack was a re-boot, so I threw the on/off switch (actually a regular 99 cent residential switch bought from the local Megamart!
A good 5 mins later it was apparent that I was going to have to investigate the problem, the web sites were still down. So I dragged a monitor over and plugged it it. The first big problem was logging in, who the hell knows what the Root password is? It has been 6 months since I touched this beast last. Ten minutes 'of trying every possible password I can think of' later I am in! And all looks fine, I can even access the outside world through whatever funky browser is on it.
Confusion reigns supreme at this stage! Then the light bulb turns on, it must be the stinking IP addy. Sure enough a quick look inside the Router proves me right. Dem b@stards have changed my IP.
The moral of the story? Don't use dynamic IP's for web sites hahahahahahaha
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Often times when you are a fan of an artist or band you do not see the subtle changes that they undergo during their careers because of the time lag between albums.
I had already decided on the format of the reviews, a three part deal, the Early Years, The Saga's and The Rest. So in order to do that it was necessary to plow through the CD's in chronological order. What a revealing experience. When you listen to 9 CD's almost back to back you can clearly see the 'dry spots' in his career. To use a term from academia, it is "the publish or perish syndrome". The record label wants an album and cajoles the artist into producing, even though they do not have any material.
The best example of this is his album Orange that was the last of the early and Innocent stage. Al's cupboard is bare, and what we have is a series of songs that are almost entirely 'filler', there is almost no "meat and potato's".
The other interesting discovery was how his music changed over time. He gradually moves from guy with a guitar, to guy with a whole orchestra. My theory is that external influences play a significant effect. The increase in backing musicians started when studio producer Alan Parsons came on board.
While we were listening I was also researching, and another conclusion that I came to was that when you compare the music to what was happening in his private life you find some interesting results. Modern Times is at best mediocre and there is a stressful and unhappy feeling about it. At the time Al was fighting with his manager, and was having to deal with an increasingly hostile record label Arista. Yet later the same year he comes out with Russians And Americans, which in my opinion is one of his finest albums. What was the change? Well Arista and his manager were out of the picture.
As I said earlier I had mapped out a rough plan for the three part series, what did surprise me was how neatly it works. This is a musician who is very smart. He runs in one musical direction, and is able to recognize when the material is exhausted and changes his tactics. This is probably the reason that he is still going strong after 40 years in the biz.
Oh, and for any of you that have no idea who he is, he's the guy that did 'Year Of The Cat'.
Well it's back to the pile of CD's for this kid!
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Maybe it would be easier to start at the end. On Wednesday (yesterday) three packages arrived, these contained a total of 21 DVD's and CD's! This is not an auspicious start to next week!
Ok last weekend was a flurry of DVD activity, I got up early on Friday and got started on the 'big pile'. Live In Vienna by Miroslav Vitous was an interesting look at the often overlooked Double bass. Next up was 25 Years At New Morning this is a DVD celebrating the finest Jazz venue in Europe, and the home base for many great musicians.
Jan prefers the world of Country and Western so next we took Merle Haggard out for a spin. Although the concert was from 1983, it was still an interesting adventure.
Looking for a change of pace we moved onto Past And Presence by Pendragon. I was interested that Pendragon and Neo share musicians, and history. I am trying to set up an interview with Clive Nolan who features in both of these bands.
Next up was Bob Berg & The Niels Lan Doky Trio – The Geneva Concert, this DVD contains some great jazz.
We also managed to take in a real movie, and this had to be the first time in 10 years that I have set foot in a movie theater. So at 10am on Tuesday morning we were in something out of a Sci-Fi story.... Actually it all worked out fine. Rise: Blood Hunter opens next week, and if you are a fan of the horror genre, you will probably want to catch this one. It was a big hit at the Tribecca festival in New York, and although it may not be Oscar material, I think it will do well.
Oh, and there were a pile of books, but I'll talk about them later.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
The movie was supposed to start at 10am, and we got there about 20 Min's early. The first problem was the front doors were locked. Of course I am not going to be dissuaded that easily. A bit of scouting around and I found a back door that was unlocked. Unfortunately the only living person I could locate was a guy painting some doors, and his knowledge of screenings was less than zero.
Eventually we did track down the 'man', I was absolutely amazed, no one asked us who we were, or which media organization we were with, no one could have cared less. But I guess the theory is that if we knew it was happening, we must be legit.
So about half a dozen of us got to watch the movie, we also chatted with a guy that is on one of the local TV stations.
Monday, May 21, 2007
It is the Victoria day long weekend, this traditionally marks the start of life outdoors in this neck of the woods. The first boating excursion, picnic, BBQ, or general outdoors revelry. This is also the weekend where Ontarians endeavour to spend a good deal of time in the 'urgent care' or 'burn unit' of the local hospital, this due to the discharging of fireworks whilst under the influence.
My partner in crime, 'Greg' informs me that in celebration of good ole Queen Vic, we will be searing animal bits on the BBQ, and the 'GF' and her youngest offspring will be coming over to enjoy this glorious event.
The bright sunny day rapidly descends into what I have come to know as spring in this little bit of purgatory. The Great Lakes may look very impressive in an atlas, but when you are on a small spit of land, surrounded by the little (or big!) bastards, you start to see some interesting weather patterns, all of which seem to revolve around wind, and the deposition of various types of precipitation, some clear and wet, some white and cold. The weather God, or Goddess seems to have a particular fondness for the Windsor area. I am surprised that through the process of 'natural selection' everyone born here does not have webbed feet, and a six inch layer of blubber.
Darkness is rapidly approaching as I pull into the driveway (mud bog), the clouds are black and ominous, and the rain god is doing his damdest to wreak further havoc on the already far from perfect roof. There is a bright flash of lightning, the house is silhouetted for a second, I notice a feature that I had missed previously, it bears an uncanny likeness to the 'Bates' property! I find some high ground (we live in constant fear of discovering the vehicles up to their axles in mud), that is reasonably close to the house, so I won't get too wet during the ingress process.
There is another sheet of lightning, this time I spot the Sears "Lawn tractor" abandoned in the marsh that we lovingly refer to as 'the back yard', a couple of acres, that, under ideal circumstances (i.e. someone has thrust a glowing red hot poker into your eyes, thereby permanently blinding you), could be called a lawn.
The most outstanding feature, actually features of this property, because there are two are; firstly the 'Boat Dock' , I have tried asking Greg about this, but neither sober nor drunk, have I been able to ascertain exactly why he built it, and more importantly, what was going through his sick and twisted mind at the time. He is a Realtor by trade, and, maybe part of the explanation lays there. Most people install swimming pools, or a trellised arbour full of roses, these add to the ambiance, and so increase the 'net worth' of the property, Greg has a boat dock! Although he claims to have no religious leanings, I believe that he views himself as a modern day Noah. This is the beginnings of his ark.
The second feature of the back yard (nee marsh) is the tree stump. When he first moved into these palatial settings there was a huge Elm tree, it was some 25 feet from the house, and it was dying. Greg thought that one day soon it might fall over and demolish the house.
Hindsight, being what it is, everyone, including Greg, now realizes that the destruction of the house would have been a beneficial thing. Sure, it would have been frustrating for some of the inhabitants. The mouse would have been forced to move out of the broken 'built in' dishwasher, the place that he and his forefathers have called home for many generations, and the rat likely would have been equally annoyed at losing the 'centrally heated' and, in rat terminology, 'well appointed' crawl space under the house. For the few neighbours however, the losing of the local 'Bates' house would have likely had a very beneficial effect on the worth of their properties. This house is so bad, it does not even have an address, we are 'RR#1, Highway 3'. Somehow mail does eventually arrive, it is my theory however that Canada Post delivers all the mail they have to real addresses, and whatever is left must be for Greg.
Anyway, Greg decided that the tree should go. So armed with a very large chainsaw, and a significant amount of libations supplied by the 'John Labatts' brewing company, sets about sparing this 200 year old Alzheimer's patient any further suffering. How he actually performed the feat, we may never really discover, it is however part of Windsor folk law. What is left is a fine monument to the pioneering spirit of the drunken lumberjack armed with the biggest chainsaw known to man!
The stump stands 12 feet high, and is almost 5 feet in diameter; it looks like a huge wooden penis. Yes, a wonderful monument to drunken ingenuity.
I make a dash through the teeming rain toward the back door, (no point in going to the front door, it has no lock on it, and is secured by 6 inch nails), as I dash toward the open door, I notice steam rising from the BBQ. Apparently the inclement weather is not going to prevent Greg from enjoying Queen Vic's birthday. I burst into the room, into what we euphemistically call the 'conservatory'. Greg has moved the patio furniture in, and is sat wearing a rain jacket, and holding onto an umbrella, while he tends the grill, and watches a golf match on one of the many TV's that he possesses (we even have a TV in the bathroom!).
The TV that he is watching has plastic bags 'duct taped' to the top of it, the 'conservatory' is the second leakiest room in the house. I walk toward the beer fridge, "the soldiers are not as icy as they could be, I was worried that we might get electrocuted, so I unplugged it". Sure enough, the rain god has selected the 30 year old fridge for special treatment. There is a steady flow of water cascading onto the top of it.
I disappear into the house (primarily to make sure that no major leaks are about to destroy any of the computers). The 'GF' is in the kitchen, armed to the teeth with chemicals, (most likely contravening the SALT treaty). She is trying to get the 'bachelor' off the tile floor. I say hi, and offer a compliment about her 'yellow Gucci rubber gloves'. She remarks something about men and their close evolutionary bond to swine. I assume it’s a term of endearment, and for good measure leave a couple of muddy footprints on the 'walk of fame'. Having checked the putors, and dressed appropriately (Rain Gear), I head back out to see what is going on.
"Those fucking birds have to go!", Greg informs me. "I didn't mind them living in the eaves (editors note... by eaves, he is in fact referring to the entire second story of the house, the rear of which has not been habitable in 10 years, it is derelict!), the little bastards have taken to crapping on the BBQ, they have to go". He goes on to explain that the following day he has to play in a golf tournament, and my mission, should I choose to accept it, is to sit outside, enjoying 'frosty pops' and shoot the little buggers with his pellet gun.
The gods are with me, Greg gets up early and heads out, presumably to aid in the destruction of some poor grounds keepers well manicured lawn. All thoughts of guns, birds and BBQ's are long forgotten.
Greg gets back at about 5pm, he has the rosy glow, denoting a successful day of golfing, though I suspect he 'double bogeyed' the 19th. "the bastards", he exclaims, "they have shit on the BBQ again!". He asks me why I had not spent the day pumping lead pellets into them, I explain that in his rush to depart, he had forgotten to give me the gun. Pausing briefly at the beer fridge to obtain fortifications, he heads off into the bowels of the house, presumably to find his version of 'bird be gone'. Sure enough, a few minutes later he returns with a rather evil looking pellet gun, resplendent with shoulder stock, this is not the recreational, lets shoot pellets at a picture of the 'TV weather man' type gun, this is more something out of a junior Rambo movie.
He gives me the 90 second tour of how to operate it, push this, twist that, pump here, etc., I thought it was more akin to the last minute directions from the producer of a porno flick. With that he heads back in to find ammo. "Mother fucker, I know I have some", he explains minutes later.
At that moment, one of the 'Guests' shits on the BBQ, Greg is enraged! And stalks off into the house, I have a feeling of deja vu, I have seen this type of behaviour before. And I am not disappointed. He returns 2 mins later with his 12 gauge, and a box of shells. He unleashes a volley at the tree stump. Satisfied that the weapon is working correctly, loads another 5 rounds into the gun, and fires at the house! I seriously expected the back of the house to fall down, but apart from a couple of missing panels in the door (on the second floor, that has no accompanying staircase!) and some new small holes from the 'scatter' the house is still intact. The birds however survived, I can attest to that fact, there were new droppings on the BBQ this morning!
Sunday, May 20, 2007
For no good reason it decided to go into re-boot mode, over and over again! Well after about 15 minutes of watching this endless cycle I decided it was time for some affirmative action. I recently replaced the motherboard in Jan's computer, and decided that a quick 'motherboardectimy' would fix my problem. Because of the 'Open Architecture' (no case) it is easy to replace any component.
Of course whenever you attempt one of these major operations you are at the mercy of 'Murphys Law', and true to form Murphy decided that this would be the ideal time to get involved. Somehow I managed to blow up the power supply. For the average person this would be game over, but I wasn't scared. I went to plan 'B', I got another beer, said the 'F' word a few times, called Intel everything but a competent manufacturer of computer bits, and grabbed one of my backup computers.
Life is good!
Thursday, May 17, 2007
On the book front, I finished Wearing The Spider by Susan Schaab that turned out to be an excellently crafted work about Identity Theft and the manipulations that can occur. I am pretty sure that Susan is going to go far in the writing industry. It was an "Uncorrected Proof" copy that I read, and I could find no mistakes, that in itself is amazing. I have never seen that before. This is a book that should go far.
I also finished Travels With Loreena McKennit by Niema Ash, this is a brand new book, yet is already making legal history. Ms Ash was Loreena's friend, travelling companion and confidant for a number of years, and she writes a very candid account of living under the umbrella of a superstar. Most people think of Loreena McKennitt as the golden Celtic angel, who exhibits almost goddess like status on the stage. Alas this does not seem to spill over into Lorena McKennitts private life. Oh, and if you want a copy of this book, I would recommend you buy it soon. To find out why check out my article on Blogger News.
On the music and video scene I forced Jan to sit and watch several curious offerings.
We started off with Gothic Vampires From Hell, I was not really sure if this was a movie or a concert. The special effect, were, to say the least, special! I liked it because it was so 'interestingly' done. I am not a horror fan, but did not feel uncomfortable watching this one. While I doubt it will get any Oscar nominations, it was a harmless flick that any Goth fan would find to be a great addition to their DVD library.
Looking for some relief from the blood suckers we tried Cruisin Love Songs This is a collection of various artists performed at the same club. It was fun to watch it 'The Way It Was'.
Next we explored one of the fine Under Review series from MVD, this time they have selected Mott The Hoople, Mott the who? I ask you ask. This is a brit band, and maybe their greatest hit was 'All The Young Dudes'. It was a great review of this 80's 'Hair Band'. I liked it a lot, I am not so sure about Jan's view on it though. She is much more into Country and Western, and the two styles do not seem to have much in common.
It has been a long time since I listened to any 70's style German hard rock, and that's exactly what we did next. Remember The Daze by Epitaph was the weapon of choice. These guys have been in the music biz for over 30 years, and while they may not be a household name on this side of the pond, they are well respected in Europe. Give them a try, you might like them!
Next week? Well on Tuesday Jan and I get to hob nob with the local press guys, we have been invited to attend a "Press Only" screening of Rise: Blood Hunter that opens on June/1. I have a couple of books that I have to get to, and I still have a pile of DVD's that need to be tackled.
I was looking at the stats, so far I have 250 articles, and over 11,000 people have visited (my advice to them is--- Go Get A Life! hahahahaha).
Of course the big question is, what have I done in the last year? Hell if I know is the answer! Well I did build a few whacked out computers, the Beer Box, The Plastic Canvas PC, and the Pizza Box, to name a few.
My interest in hardware got dulled slightly when I moved into the lofty world of book reviewing, I think that got started in earnest around late December. I just did a quick scout around and it looks like I have about 40 book reviews to my credit, and almost as many author interviews! So that averages out at about 2 books a week! My record was an eyeball straining 5 books in 7 days. Reviewing is a hard biz to break into, but when you do it is like a frieght train going downhill with no brakes.
Of course who can stop at books? It wasn't long before I ventured into other media, music, video, and movies. Once again this started off as a mere trickle, just getting the occasional CD from artists I liked, and a couple of 'screener' DVD's for soon to be released movies (mainly Indie stuff), before long tho, the trickle turned into a full fledged tsunami, with 12 DVD's arriving in the space of 3 days. This was as a result of one of the big distributors liking my reviews and deciding that from here on in I should just automatically get everything they release. And that is approximately a release per day!
Friday, May 11, 2007
It was with some trepidation that I played this next CD. Who would call themselves 'The Queers'? Although it looks like a career ending name, these guys are very good. Munki Brain is a splendid album, and everyone should rush out and buy it.
Moving on to the books scene, I finished Death Is On The Down Beat by Richard Winston. The story line was quite strong, but I did find a few editing errors, it is entirely possible that it was an 'Uncorrected Proof' version and so not in it's final form.
I have started reading Travels With Loreena McKennitt by Niema Ash, and so far it is a most entertaining read. Most of us see Lorena as a very sedate and serene figure, the book reveals another side to this superstar, and maybe not a very nice one. What attracted me to this book is the history behind it and the ramifications for other authors and journalists. Travels was the subject of a British lawsuit that made it all the way to the House of Lords, that is the equivalent of the Supreme Court in the US. Loreena took exception to some passages in the book, oh, and incidentally she won! Maybe the most significant aspect of this ruling was that it was not the factual truthfulness that was in question! Loreena just did not want parts of the story told.
I am also currently reading Wearing The Spider by Susan Schaab, this is a very well executed thriller that involves identity theft, sexual harassment, and fraud.
Whats on for next week? Well I have a mountain of DVD's to plow through, 11 at the last count, and a couple more books.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
It's just irks me, I get to pay tax on free stuff! Today's bill was $9, it may not sound a lot, but with the amount of stuff I get that could mount up pretty damn quick. I think this whole thing is outrageous, but who the hell do you complain to?
Sunday, May 06, 2007
Last month we launched a reviews section on Bloggernews, and I was blown away when I looked at the stats, over 40 reviews have been posted! The vast majority being 'stuff' that we sourced through my PR contacts. That's a lot of free stuff! I have a special shelf for my free stuff, and since last Christmas my shelf has grown to one and a half shelves. It is amazing how fast you accumulate stuff. I even have duplicates of some items, sometimes companies send you more than one copy of stuff.
If you fancy doing some reviews drop me a line on email@example.com
Friday, May 04, 2007
Right now we are relaxing to the fine acoustic guitar playing of Erik Mongrain. Fates, is a fine album. And I will have some links up shortly.
It is going to be a long day! two down, 7 to go! hahahahaha
Thursday, May 03, 2007
It has been an interesting week. I started off with The Scatterlings Of Africa by Peter Davies. This is a very curious book, it is set in what was then Rhodesia in the early 70's. The UN sanctions were beginning to have a real effect, and the internal race issues were peaking. Although this is a work of fiction, much of the general story is anchored in reality. This was a particularly turbulent time in the country that we now call Zimbabwe.I liked the book, and I am looking forward to interviewing Peter Davies.
After Scatterlings I tackled Death Is On The Down Beat by Richard Winston. How I came across this book is a good story in itself. Richard is one of the writers for Blogger News Network. So I (being an editor) thought that we should give 'one of our own' some publicity. I have not quite finished the book, but so far it is an entertaining read. Hopefully I will have a review up sometime this weekend.
The real fun part of the week tho has to go to the Music area. About two months ago I expressed an interest in a CD, it was due to be released in mid June, and is a tribute to the late great June Carter Cash.
The featured list of artists reads like a 'who's who' of country music. Well I sent of a request, and received a polite email saying that I was on the list and the CD would be shipped near the release date. Well I am pretty 'long in the tooth' when it comes to release dates, they change like the damn weather here in Calgary. I was not in the least surprised when two weeks later the CD arrived in the mail.
I listened, and I really liked, so I wrote a glowing review. The folks that read the review liked it so much it got syndicated to a whole lot of high profile regional newspaper sites. Now you would think the the PR company would be happy? Not so, there was a screw up in Nashville, I had the only copy of this CD in the wild. Man were they pissed off at me! Some very acrimonious emails were exchanged. Well I can only assume that the the 'official' press pre-release copies are now out, because on Tuesday they sent me another copy of Anchored In Love. I laughed till my sides hurt.
The other big event happened on Thursday, a cardboard box with 9 CD's and DVD's arrived, all of which need reviewing, as my wife Jan put it "Boy you are going to have a busy weekend!".