Dec 24 2009

A holiday wish

Christmas time
Creative Commons License photo credit: Anders Ljungberg

I wish there was an event that brought every human on the planet to a pause together.  A holiday giving cause for every living being to  stand still and witness the silence together.  I think that December holidays, be it Christmas, or Hannukah, or Kwanzaa, or the Winter Solstice, bring us close to that moment – I can always feel the potential in these days for momentary unity, and the awesome power that union holds.

Only, we are dispersed…by time zones, by beliefs, by priorities, by stigma, by language and needs and wants and fear.  Our hands may reach to family and friends, and in that small group we may find peace and joy, but the larger group, our species as a whole, won’t share that feeling as one.

And so, I ask of each of you this holiday season, whether you are with family, with friends, or alone: stop and think of the lives your presence intersects.  Think of the memories of you that reside in them, and how your life adds colour to theirs.  And think how they, in turn, bring your presence to the lives they touch, in that six degrees of seperation of which we’ve heard so much.  In this time of the year, when so many come together in celebration, think of how far, however diluted, your grasp and influence actually reach.  We will, in fact, be joined as one: we need only lift up to see the vast ocean of unity that surrounds us.  And in that unity is the power to transcend all of which our seperate lives find insurmountable.

That is my wish.  I will continue to wish it, each Christmas time, knowing that regardless of faith, what focus this month brings us all.  For me, it is not about the famous birth, or the temple and lantern oil, or the midwinter ritual – it is the intersection of all these events that gives us access to immense potential.  A potential to stop and see each other, and finally find room for peace.

Happy Holidays!

Dec 21 2009


December pin up!
Creative Commons License photo credit: Richard0


It comes in the oddest of places

It comes when I need to be alone

There’s a solace in quiet, and a place that no one knows

but me

A feeling that can’t be touched, unless it is alone to feel

And yet, from solace there is the longing

To be loved, to be held, to be cherished, to be made

To feel that I’m the One amongst many

I can’t explain what it is that feels the need to hide, in order to express its need to be seen

Only that it smiles when it has time for that secret room, where magic and peace reside

A peace that dissolves, one particle at a time, when I realize that an empty room is as hollow as it sounds

And so I remain, trapped in this paradox that is my centre

To live day after day, pulled from silence to sound, running to hide only to find fear in the dark

I am alone, and yet, I am sure there is one,

That someday, somehow, will bring me new life

To touch, finally, that place in my heart

that so desperately needs to be joined

To heal, then to smile

Then to sleep

Sep 15 2009

In an effort to go viral…

…and in the absence of anything new to write, here’s my YouTube premiere, starring Eliot, the world’s friendliest cat (oh, and the subtitles…just what I’m saying translated into Japanese…thank you Google Translator):

Jul 2 2009

Tunes worth a spin – II (Trance – in celebration of Pride Weekends everywhere)

It’s the music that slides in midway through a good all-nighter party.

The crowd has relaxed, the vibe is electric, and the DJ is in a sense-enticing groove, guiding the room through new highs until dawn.   At least that’s what I picture when I listen to Trance and Progressive Trance – unlike a lot of dance music, the better artists  captivate my ear and make my spine tingle.

So this review covers what I’ve found so far.  All of these artists use a similar vocabulary; phase shifts, wave modulations, sweet vocals, white noise, club-standard rhythyms, and the inevitable ecstasy-rush build-up and explode.  Even so, each of the artists below have their own voice, and I wanted to capture that.

Armin van Buuren – A State of Trance 2008: Tailored, Elegant, Alive

available at Amazon and your local CD store

available at Amazon and your local CD store

Maybe it’s his Dutch sensibility, or his musical background…I don’t know enough about him yet to say.  But the first image that comes to mind when I hear Armin van Buuren ( is an expensive, tailored couch (wait for it…).  The fabric is the best, the colour is striking, the shape is opulent, it’s great to sit in, but it retains a clean line and a neat look.  He creates a lush carpet of sound, and you can tell that he’s here to party, but he keeps his eye on the ball throughout.  There’s no pointless repetition – there’s no formula transitions.  It’s smart music , clean and lush, with the right amount of tingle and thrill.

Oceanlab: Sirens of the Sea – Plush, smiling beats

At Amazon, or your local retailer

At Amazon, or your local retailer

I scanned this quickly one day in HMV, and a few seconds of each track was enough for me to know this was for me.  It’s happy music.  It makes me smile, it makes me tingle, it carries me.  It’s more atmospheric than some of the other albums in this review – more trance than dance, more chill then thrill.  Still, the harmonies are lush, the voicings are wide, the beats are there and are gently encouraging, and the vocals are sweet (nothing like vocals to connect a track to a feeling).  I can’t help but like this album.

Kaskade: Strobelite Seduction – Power in a fur coat

available at your local retailer or Amazon

available at your local retailer or Amazon

I really love this album.  It has the cool factor of Armin van Buuren, plus something more.  With van Buuren I get a sense of restraint, holding the trance on course.  With Kaskade, it’s emotion – he wants you to know he’s there.  It’s not just that he uses more vocals in this album then other artists (the usual suspects – sweet, light, female) – although as I said above, vocals bring an extra zing of personality to a track.  His mixes are a little warmer, a little brighter, a little sweeter, maybe a little more straight ahead, and just a little deeper in the lush factor.  But behind that, there’s just enough testosterone to kick the whole package up a notch.  I can almost see the guy behind the turntable listening to this – stop-in-your-tracks handsome, and so matter-of-fact about it all.  A hint of smile, the smarts to make you move, and the talent to carry you through the night.

deadmau5: Random Album Title - Canadian Coolness

Available at your local Amazon or disc dealer

Available at your local Amazon or disc dealer

This album is cool, and not just because it’s Canadian (we Canadians love our successes).  This is a bit of a detour from the albums above, only in that drive and beat are primary.  The atmosphere is still there, and it’s definitely trance material.  The sounds are big, but more mechanical – more electronica – maybe a little more impersonal.  But it’s not in a bad way- this album has flow and sweep and drama.  And the beats are kicking – more mainstream club then chill lounge soft.  It still gets my skin tingling, and it’s not kick-you-in-the-ass-it’s-time-to-dance.  It’s just a very cool, very spacious, very strong sound.  I love it.

Tiesto: In Search of Sunrise 6 “Ibiza” – Main Event Mastery

at your local Amazon or disc dealer

at your local Amazon or disc dealer

Ok, I am probably biased here, because I know he’s an established headliner.  Still, this album shows why – it’s big, it’s strong, it’s beautiful.  It has the long lines of van Buuren and the passion of Kaskade, plus a club-savvy vibe and power that only a DJ that can hold a stadium in his trance can bring.  The textures – complex, beautiful layers of sounds and effects – so many colours to pick out of each track.  And the rythyms pinning the sounds – that powerhouse bass beat that gives that the huge atmosphere of sound some serious muscle.  This is class A, middle of the night super-buzz, driving you to bliss, let’s dance and fuck like animals music.  This guy throws the party I want to be at.

Also not to be missed:

Thrillseekers: Night Music Vol.2

Amazon or a store near you

Amazon or a store near you

Armin van Buuren: Imagine: The Remixes

Amazon or your disc dealer

Amazon or your disc dealer

So, that’s a look at some of the tunes carrying me through the summer – check ‘em out at Amazon (you can preview tracks at  And hey – comment, would you?  I’d like to know that at least one person reads all this.


May 19 2009

Fear + Anger + Hopelessness = 21st century?

From Alphonsuss Written Word - read the poem attached to the picture

From the blog 'Alphonsus's Written Word' - read the poem by clicking the picture

It seems self-serving to vent in public.  And it gets a little tiresome, I know.  But I’ll vent anyway, because someone out there may read this and agree, and feel grateful they are not alone, like I feel I am right now.

I am afraid…afraid of so many things.  Afraid of facing work.  Afraid of facing people.   Afraid of taking action.  Afraid of failure (and maybe success).  Afraid of people that aren’t afraid.  Afraid of the pace.  Afraid of the noise.  Afraid of rejection.  So afraid…

And I mad.  Mad at the human race.  Mad we have a ruling class.  Mad at the race we are conditioned to run. Mad at the glorification of wealth.  Mad at the loss of patience. Mad at the loss of common sense.  Mad at the loss of charity.  Mad at greed.  Mad at corporate myopia.  Mad at social myopia.  Mad at those that think it’s all so exciting.   So mad…

And I’m feeling hopeless.  I feel like an alien that does not speak the language, or understand the customs.  I stand back and stare and all I see is a giant aluminum mountain that I will never be able to scale.  I watch the world whizz by and all I catch are flashes of images.  I don’t live here anymore – I’ve been shut out.  It’s someone else’s club, and I’m not going to be a member.  Ever.

So…this is the 21st century.  I remember dreaming about whether I’d live this long to see it for myself – it all seemed so far-fetched back then in the 70s.  How could I know that people are idiots here?  Life is about consumption here?  That sanity lies only in rare pockets you search for?  That mainstream is a polluted river of bilge?

What I’d really like?  I’d like the stock markets to really crash hard, and take all those that got rich by making money on money down to the bottom.  I’d like the poor to crush all the top-tier executives – maybe that would shake greed out of our genes.  I’d like a really fucking impressive natural disaster to weed out all those self-centered, possession-hungry “I’m the majority” voters – they can’t be smart enough to deal with it.  Really, what I wish for, is someone to make the entire f-ing planet stop in its tracks and teach it peace and serenity and sanity.  I’m secretly hoping the Mayans have it right and we’re done for soon.

All I can say right now is I want out.  I like the planet a lot, but I’m done with this weed called ‘human’.  It’s choking out all the good things that live here, and I’m sick of its smell.  It’s not lost on me that I’ve just condemned myself in that thought, since I am part of that species.  All the same…I want out.

Fear + Anger + Hopelessness.  Not the equation that any Oprah-wannabe would think we’ve written, but that’s what I see.  And, honestly, it don’t add up to much.


Apr 29 2009

Tunes worth a spin – I

I promised myself at least two posts a month, and although this is a bit of a cop-out…here are some thoughts ’bout music I’m listening to currently…

link to - visit your local Amazon (.com,, etc) to purchase

links to - visit your local Amazon (.com,, etc) to purchase

The Bird and The Bee: Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future

I love their style.  It’s clean, direct, smart, and deceptively innocent.  The writing is very retro, but definitely has some 21st century bones, and a sonic soundscape that is lush without being fattening.  Inara’s voice (the lead singer) is such a refresh from all the heavy, overwrought, avidly earnest singing out there lately – light and lithe, maneuvering deftly on tip-toes, but she isn’t anyone’s princess.  You can sense the acid behind the words, and given the chance, she could hurt you with a glance.

links to (good if you're Canadian - pick your own Amazon if youre elsewhere)

links to (good if you're Canadian - pick your own Amazon if you're elsewhere)

Jason Mraz: We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things

I like a voice that can maneuver.  One that sounds like it doesn’t need Accu-tune to survive, and can negotiate more than one octave without breaking a sweat.  Jason Mraz has one of those voices – he reminds me a lot of Jason Kay of Jamiroquai – a lighter voice that can dodge and shift fast, but with a gallon of soul that gives it some guts.  Amazon classifies him as Soul, or Adult Alternative, and I can see why – he’s definitely got an ear for R&B.  But there’s something about the singing and the writing that reaches out from those genres, and for me, that’s what keeps it fresh and sparkling.  Definitely singing outside of the box.

Links to

Links to (not Canadian? you know what to do by now)

Lily Allen: It’s Not Me It’s You

Someone told me Lily Allen has gotten boring.  I hadn’t heard her before this album, so I can’t say.  What I can say is this is a cute album with a kick-ass edge.  The orchestrations are deft, lush, and brilliant.  Her voice is sweet, easy going, and pretty damn listenable.  And how can I not enjoy a sweet, bouncy little tune called ‘Fuck You’?  She’s got what I like – she’s smart, she’s sharp, she’s musical, she’s pop without the pap, and she’s fresh in being who she is.  I can’t deny Lily Allen, and I have to add – you ain’t boring, miss.

Apr 15 2009

A question of faith

It is Finished
Creative Commons License photo credit: abcdz2000

I am not a religious person.  That is to say, I don’t attend a church, or count myself among the followers of any particular  religion.  I wouldn’t say that I don’t have a faith, because I do believe in something that is greater than the sum of the parts – call it higher conciousness, cosmic ether, magic – whatever.  And I have to admit that I have taken to heart lessons learned from many religions, West and East.

I was inspired to write this idea down this because of a segment on “CBS Sunday Morning” about forgiveness, drawn from the message of Jesus on the cross and the fact that it was Easter Sunday.  The segment asked a panel of experts from various religions how the theme was played out in their worlds.  It made me stop to think (again) about all those religions and what they were saying.

So here’s the thing – is it really heresy to say that all religions are essentially different permutations of the same idea?  I’m sure the answer from many would be, ‘Uh, yea!”.  The last time I floated that idea, the person I said it to was so engulfed in rage, I left a dinner party early.

But I look at what religions teach (no scholar here, but I read..), and the seminal figures from some of the bigger groups – Buddha, Mohammed and Jesus come to mind: in their own way and language, they all teach about love, forgiveness, tolerance, and self-worth.  They may travel different routes to get there, but the destination is (to me, that is) always the same.  I am amazed by the Christian Bible alone – regardless of who you consider to be its author, it is an amazingly powerful document, so adaptable to the moment, so dynamic in its meaning (and so easily dismissed as dogma).

I have to wonder, then…what if humans put aside their bigotry and brought their faiths together?  What would happen if the Buddhists were informed by the Christians, the Muslims by the Jewish faith, the Hindus by the Buddhists, and so on?  It’s not to say that each put aside their beliefs…I just wonder how each would grow if they looked at each other with faith and humility and accept what could be a grand cross-pollination.  What would happen to religious zealotry if each group looked at the other and said, ‘oh yea – we all want the same thing’.  I doubt it could ever happen, since it seems like religions tend to slide into matters of personal opinion once they’ve been handled enough by humans.  But what if…?

Maybe that’s my faith – how ever it is packaged, whatever you want to call it, there is more to life than the sum of its parts.  I can’t see it, or measure it, but I know its there around me.

And in my weakest moments, it is my strength.


Mar 30 2009

Looking up, part two

Aurora Borealis, the colored lights seen in the skies around the North Pole, the Northern Lights, from Bear Lake, Alaska, Beautiful Christmas Scene, Winter Star Filled Skies, Scenic Nature
Creative Commons License photo credit: BL1961

On the eve of my 45th birthday, I stop to consider how many times I want to check out of the human race.  The selfishness, the myopia, the steady decline of civility, the increase of stupidity… all of it makes me angry that I have to face it every day.  My weakness, it is, that I prefer solitude to engagement.  I’m working on that, but it doesn’t erase my reasons for wanting to stay away.

That being said, it’s when I look up at the night sky that I realize there is more to life than being human.  There are the millions of species other than homo sapien that call this planet home.  There are the hundreds of miles of ocean depth that have yet to be seen or understood.  There are probably more modalities of life than we can see that are living with us – they may even be laughing silently as we run ourselves to extinction.

But, more than all of that, I look up at night and realize how small it all is in the face to the infinity above.  We are a tiny speck of dust swimming in a  vast particle sea.  We are but fuzz on a single peach in an endless ocean of fruit.  Held against the backdrop of the universe, we do not even cast a shadow.

And, knowing that, the fear and anger this century brings me drops away, if just for a moment.  Because, in the final rinse, it means nothing.  Only I remain, and that’s enough.

Mar 14 2009

If I could interview…

Judy Garland

Interviews preamble:  I’ve always admired people that interview famous people really well.  Remember Brian Linehan, Canadian readers?  Annoying that he could be, he would set up really telling questions with his huge preambles, researched to the hilt, and you could see the guests blown away by what he knew about them.  Or James Lipton of ‘Inside the Actors Studio’, with his big stack of blue cards, touching actors’ hearts by the depth of his questions.  And then there are the hundreds of lousy interviews, which I watch and think, ‘why are you wasting their time with your superficial chatter?  Why aren’t you asking these people questions I really want to ask? ‘  So came this idea, which would be a ‘what if I could sit and interview some truly famous people that I have admired’.  It’s a little half-baked in that it’s just questions, without answers.  But as is the theme of this blog, I gotta get em out there, just because.  So, to inaugurate what I hope will be a series…I start with the one and only….Judy Garland.

Studio shot circa 1940s, from

Studio shot circa 1940s, from

Judy, I have to begin with a confession.  Before I met my partner (of eight years, now), I didn’t know much about you beyond the Wizard of Oz.  My mother was not a fan of musicals, and my dad preferred Westerns, so there was no reason for our paths to cross.  My partner, on the other hand, knew all about you before his early 20s, and has been a die-hard fan ever since.  He has introduced me to your huge talent; your range, your humour, your fame, your struggles, and a lot of the little minutae that brings a person to life.

And now I can say that I’m an avid fan too, but more than that – I feel like I understand something about you, something so familiar.  You quickly have become a kindred spirit, even though my image of you is a construction of your movies, your music, your interviews and the interviews of people who knew you.  Your bio-pic from Lorna’s book reduced me to sobbing, so familiar were the demons you fought.  So I have to ask you…how many times have you heard that before?

Judy answers..

But really, there is something so open about your performances, whether on film, on the stage, on television, and your interviews, both on radio and television, that suggests to me that you are not an enigma on stage, not wearing a mask.  It’s more like you are opening a window to let yourself pour out, and we can see so much of you in everything you do.  I hope that you take that as a compliment, but I have to wonder – is it an on-stage Judy we are seeing, and the off-stage Judy is taking a break?  I mean, when you are out there, do you feel more like you slip into a persona or character, that you slip off at the end of the day?

Judy laughs (I hope), and tries to set me straight…

So, maybe I’m way off the mark then when I see the true pleasure the real, behind-the-scenes Judy, derives from performing, and I’m touched by maybe a hint of the real-life vulnerabilites you may carry, and the true strength and determination that have brought you to where you are.  I doubt that that’s true, because I’ve heard enough artists comment on your drive and sparkle in your work. Many great actors say that their best performances are when they are closest to themselves, and I wonder – from your Vaudeville days, and then through the MGM days and on to the concert stage, have you ever considered a method of acting, or has it been more straightforward – do it right, and get on with it?

Judy scoffs at ‘the Method’ and carries on…

What about singing, Judy?  A friend who played piano for opera singers described what singing was for the greatest artists: he said to them it just felt physically so good to sing.  When things are working, and you have a really good song to sing, how does it feel?  I get the impression that it’s a real power-wave you’re riding, judging from some of your live performance tapes.  Is it a workout, or is it like riding the surf on some big waves, or maybe more like flying on adrenalin?  Or do you even think about that, or want to think about it?

Judy hesistates to give up a trade secret, then elaborates…

I’m guessing (I really should have read a biography or two) your musical training was from your family, and then your work with the music men at MGM, and a lot comes from your natural ear and ability.  I wonder sometimes what goes on in your mind as you sing, because the phrases you put out are always so expertly shaped and shaded.  I know when I’ve performed, I would find myself visualizing the shape of the music, but I would get hung up on the sound I was producing.  I wonder what you focus on – is it the words in a song, or is it the sound you are making, or is it the feel?

Judy would or would not say something like ‘I just sing’…

Judy, as much as I could talk all day about making music, I want to turn back to something about you that’s bothered me since I’ve gotten to know your work.  There is so much talk about the ups and downs in your life, your fight with drugs, your fights with the studios.  So many of them that say negative things about those aspects of your life really didn’t get what you were up against, did they?  I mean, I think I really understand something about you that I’m not sure how I got – it’s the fear that even though you’re told you’ve done good, or you’ll do good, that somehow you won’t measure up.  Or is it that you really, really want to be loved, and yet you fear that somehow you’re going to be left alone?  There is something truly vulnerable and fragile in you that so many people seemed to dismiss or whitewash, or simply didn’t see or understand?  They took you at face value, and didn’t look at the back pages of your story.  Is that even close to being true?

..Judy maybe stalls…

Ok, for instance – Mickey Rooney.  I know how close you were, growing up together in the heat of the MGM lights, weathering the studio publicity machine together, all that time as a team.  Whenever I hear him speak of you, I get the distinct impression that he settled on a picture of you that really isn’t truth, but his calcified version of what he saw.  He speaks of love for you, and then blames only you for the drugs.  He claims you were more than a sister, and yet I really doubt he saw you beyond his own ego’s distortion of you.  Of all the friends in Hollywood, I never get a sincere feeling from him about you, to the point that I want to yell back at him, ‘You didn’t really bother to get to know her, did you?’  Now, I’m sure you will defend him forever, but if you felt safe enough to say it, would you agree with any of what I’ve said?

At this point, Judy may be tempted to be done with me, but…

I would never want to put your sense of loyalty to the test, and I’m sorry for having asked a question that puts you on the spot.  There are people from Hollywood that I truly believe knew you – like June Allison.  Now there’s a woman that has feeling for you – for your talent, for your humour, and for the dramas that you’ve faced.  I think she really knew you, and all of you, not just the bits and pieces she chose to accept.  I have to put that out there, because it’s those people that present to the world not only the true talent that is captured on film, video and recording, but the incredible human being that worked hard to weather a pretty vicious storm.  You are some kind of lady, and I never would want to hear your name sullied.

…Judy sits back in her chair…

So, I should lighten up a bit here.  I’ve heard from others what an incredible professional you were – you could learn lines, choreography, songs, staging, in a blink of an eye.  I’ve watched all the rough cuts of the ‘Mr. Monotony’ number from “Easter Parade, and I’m amazed at how you hit every mark and every move in every take, with spot-on lip-synching to the playback. I’ve watched in pride many times how you could keep up move for move with Gene Kelly’s dancing in ‘For Me and My Gal’ and ‘The Pirate’.  How did you do it so well?  Is that Vaudeville training again, and a lot of sweat?  It seems so effortless…

Hopefully, a nice tangent and story about finding and working with Gene Kelly…

It’s incredible to watch your work, and to hear so many say what an immense talent you show.  And yet I always get the impression that behind it all, a part of you won’t accept that it’s any good at all.  Do you have those moments – where you think about whether you’ll be found out – that you’ve faked it all and now the jig is up?

(I wonder whether Judy would come through with a personal answer, or if she would stick to her guns with ‘I’m good – I’m damn good.  And I know it’)

I should leave it here, Judy.  It’s hard to think of more questions to ask, when you aren’t here to answer them.  I wish you were still here – it hurts that the storms around you got too fierce for you to weather, and because of that I will never have a chance to talk to you. I have thought that the next best thing would be to sit with Liza or Lorna or Joe and talk about you with them, but even then it would be their version of you.  So, then, I’m reduced to this – with a hope that somehow, through the cosmic ether, you’ll hear me.  And maybe, somehow,  I’ll hear you.

We miss you, Judy.  Thank you for being here.

Mar 2 2009

Looking up

Wii'll be Fit
Creative Commons License photo credit: Edgar Zuniga Jr.

In New York City, it is said that you can always spot a tourist – they’re the ones that are looking up.  True New Yorkers don’t look up, and I think I know why.  There is so much New York City, it’s too much to carry everyday – New Yorkers know that to preserve themselves; they take in what they need to take in.  You look down, you head out, you get to the it you need, and you head home.

And it’s pretty similar in most major cities, including mine – Toronto.  You head out, you look down, you get to work (friend’s place, hangout), you do your thing, and then you head home – head down again ’til you’re through the door.

So, I had to stop and think one afternoon this week, when a flock of pigeons took off in front of me and circled en masse into the air.  I followed them up and found myself looking up in a brilliant afternoon sky – one that I thought I knew, but had obviously neglected.  And it wasn’t just that I was looking at the sky – that motion of lifting my head and looking up had lifted me up and out of myself.  Staring at the sidewalk moments before, I was in my day – frustrated at the frustrations, worried about the worries, laughing at the funny bits, and waiting for quitting time.  Head up and marvelling at the blue and white above me, it suddenly all fell away.  I was released into the freedom of nature, and awed by the breadth and depth of the world surrounding me.  The crises and quibbles that seemed most important were suddenly trivial, and the planet was smiling at me.  And, strangely enough, I felt more of me come alive that moment, then all the self-reflection I had going on moments before.

I do look often at the night sky, staring with hope at the stars above, wondering if I can ever fathom the enormity of it all.  But the day’s sky, neglected no longer – if only to look up and remember that there is more to life than daily human pursuits.  There’s a planet here still welcoming us warmly, and if only to be polite, we should smile back in gratitude.

Here, then, is my wish – now more than ever, when everything and everyone seems to be looking down, literally and figuratively – look up.  You’ll see – to look up is to look out, and to look out is to look in.