Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dancing with Dictators

Dearest Friends, I'm convinced that evil dictators are stalking me. No, don't laugh, it's true, honest. Remember when Kim Jong Il followed me in his Honda Accord? Well, I had another narrow escape...

It happened yesterday at the Granville Island Public Market. I had popped over from work at lunchtime to buy a bit of fish for supper. Having settled on a half-dozen succulent Digby scallops (which I pan-fried that evening to joyful perfection), I was making my way out when who should walk right past me but Zimbabwean despot Robert Mugabe. He was dressed in a yellow polo shirt and chinos, but I recognized him in spite of his disguise. Unfortunately, he slipped away into the crowd before I could react. In hindsight I should have incapacitated him by flinging scallops at his head, but the shock of seeing one of Africa's most nefarious tyrants in the throbbing epicurean heart of Vancouver cost me precious moments.

I am now fretting about my inevitable next encounter with a dictator. Will I bump into Burmese generalissimo Than Shwe at Zulu Records? Or will I'll espy Uzbekistani President Islam "I'm prepared to rip off the heads of 200 people" Karimov buying a pungent Epoisses at Benton Brothers? Whoever I encounter next time, I pray I have the presence of mind to do the right thing...

The Cortinas - Fascist Dictator (buy here if you've got $40 to drop on vinyl)
Scientist - Zimbabwe Dub (buy here or e-here)
Okapi Guitars - Radio Free Zimbabwe (buy here or e-here)
This fantastic track has a thumb piano in it. God, how I love thumb pianos...

Go here to read what Amnesty International has to say about Zimbabwe and here to read HRW's take.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Memory of A Future Foretold

I remember it was at the annual school fête. I would have been eight years old. A hand-lettered sign promised fortunes told, and so I went into the tent. I sat down at the table, across from my bluff Class 2 teacher, Mrs Feitosa. She wore a turban and a purple cape, while I was Julius Caesar, draped in a sheet. Everyone dressed up for the fête, and I had been deeply impressed by our lessons that year about the Romans. I recall it being a hot, Brazilian day.

Mrs Feitosa carefully laid out the cards on the table; they were unlike those with which I had seen my Mother playing solitaire. Most of what she said I can no longer recall, nor do I remember what suits were spread out. But I clearly see her tutting at one of the tarot, and hear her informing me, in her stern and matronly voice, it foretold of a lifelong opposition, of someone who would always be an obstacle, a barrier. Someone, not something. I was rather scared.

Throughout my childhood the memory would surface occasionally and I would ponder upon it, unable to fathom who might be my opponent. This continued even after childish credulity gave way to skepticism in all things divinatory. Then a few years ago, I thought I had figured it out; in a flash of revelation, I realized who had been and was still my obstacle. Someone very close to me.

More recently I was reflecting once --idly, I thought-- on the mystic Mrs Feitosa. And I was suddenly mugged by the realization that I had been wrong. In fact I had been, was, and could continue to be, my own lifelong nemesis.

Dead Can Dance - Song of the Sibyl (buy here or e-here)
Shriekback - Nemesis (buy here)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Wrath of FiL

With a buddha as my co-pilot

The Contrast Podcast radiates vengeful anger this week as it concludes its tour of the seven deadly sins with an exploration of wrath. Come hear the CP Nation get angry, very angry indeed. You can download the 'cast here, and vent your own spleen here. Oh, and a word to the wise: better let those Happy Flowers watch cartoons. Trust me.

All that wrath in full:

(00:00) Intro from Mr G. Letch & Mr A. Thrub

(03:25) The Anti-Nowhere League - I hate people
Tim from The face of today

(05:46) Queen - Death on two legs
Natalie from Mini-Obs

(09:54) The Reverend Horton Heat - 400 bucks
Chris from

(14:01) Bob Dylan - Only a pawn in their game
James from Appetite For Distraction

(18:17) The Cure - Us or them
Adam from Pretending life is like a song

(23:05) Björk - Army of me
Anna from Desert Island Jukebox

(27:22) Léo Ferré - Abel et Cain (translation)
ZB from So the wind won’t blow it all away

(29:36) The Buff Medways - You piss me off
FiL from Pogoagogo

(32:50) PiL - Rise
JC aka The Vinyl Villian

(39:37) The Go! Team - The wrath of Marcie
Marcy from Lost in your inbox

(43:16) John Vanderslice - Bill Gates must die
Lyle from Mentok the Mind-taker

(48:00) Dinosaur Jr. - Little fury things
Eiron from The S+7 Method

(51:16) The Jet Black Berries - Sweet revenge

(54:58) Pernice Brothers - Number two
Greer from A Sweet Unrest

(59:59) Dream City Film Club - The curse
John Q.

(01:04:45) Happy Flowers - I said I wanna watch cartoons
The In Crowd from I’m Learning to Share!

As I'm of the firm belief that the world needs more Billy Childish, my wrathful pick was an easy one to select. That said, as the red haze descended across my eyes, I did also consider the following tunes:

The Buffets
- You Piss Me Off (buy here)
Yes, the Buffs song covered by a trio of women associated to varying degrees with Billy C. Bassist Nurse Julie is Billy's wife and also plays bass for his current band, The Musicians of the British Empire. Singer Sister Tiffany Lee met Billy when he came to Seattle to marry Julie, who sang in Tiffany's band The Stuck-Ups. Drum Matron Debbie Bongo sang for Thee Headcoatees, a past Billy C affiliate band, and also drummed for the A-Lines, alongside Julie on guitar. Got all that? Good. The Buffets came together for their first rehearsal on 2 April, 2005. The next day they recorded their debut album, and it was mixed on 4 April. On 8 April they played their first and only gig in support of the Buff Medways at the Dirty Water Club. Your FiL was there to see it, and I can testify that it was an evening of authentic garage punk heart, soul, and sweat. I also got rather tipsy and chatted dorkily with the lovely Sister Tiffany at the bar after the proceedings. Oh, and I tried to cadge a lift off of Billy and his crew in their ancient ambulance. Shame they were going to Chatham, while we were going to Clapham.

Armitage Shanks with Billy Childish - Shirts Off (buy here or e-here)
Another stalwart of the Chatham set, Armitage Shanks also played at that 8 April 2005 Dirty Water Club show. It was the first time I'd seen these hardworking blokes, and they served up a proper hearty meal of 1977 punk with lashings of integrity. That show was also the last UK gig I went to, but The Shanks were also the first band I saw after emigrating to Vancouver. Well, I was impressed by the serendipity of it all.

The Exploited - I Hate You (buy here or e-here)
Ah, Wattie and the tartan lads shout it loud and proud. Does exactly what it says on the tin.

OK, I'm sure you're all wondering what the buddha photo has to do with wrath. Well, lots, actually. You see, as I say in my intro this week (and as I've said before), I do subscribe to the buddhist view that anger is a destructive emotion. I don't share John Lydon's opinion, as articulated in JC's submission this week, that "anger is an energy." To be precise, it is not useful energy. Anger gets you and others a whole mess of suffering. And I should know, because I --just like you and you and you-- get angry. Not homicidal-maniac angry, but angry nonetheless. But whenever I do, I regret the collateral damage it causes. Always. When I yell at the kids, when I argue with my Mother, when I pranged my car while driving under the influence of seething fury.

So, the wee buddha pictured above now sits on the dashboard of my recently restored vehicle (which I've dubbed "Nose Job" in commemoration) to help me focus on dissolving anger when it arises and transforming it into compassion and loving kindness. You probably all think I've turned into some sort of soft-boiled hippy with granola in his loincloth. Fret not, no patchouli or kaftans round here, missus. But I am trying to make myself a wrath-free zone.

I'm sure I'll fuck it up, but I'm equally certain that I'll keep on trying.

P.S. I've found this book helpful, as well as this one. Just saying.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

It's All Gone a Bit Bollywood

Look, just don't ask why, coz I haven't a sag aloo. But if you were to drop by my place tonight, you'd see me dancing (badly) to this:

Asha Bhosle and Usha Iyer - I Love You (buy here)

Oh cobblers, I think I've torn my sari. And where did all those stinking hippies come from??

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


And so, I'm back. Actually, I've been back for about a week, apart from this weekend when I was once again forth. But yesterday I was back again, but will go forth and back and forth and back in the coming weeks.

Oh dear, I think I've muddled it all up. Let me try again...

Last week I returned to town after two lovely weeks on Mayne Island. Lovely, but only partly restful; those of you with spawn of your own will know that children of single-digit ages are particularly adept at staving off peace & quiet. We also had the pleasure of dogsitting Dearest Father-in-Law's hound, a chocolate lab whose irrepressible happiness is largely offset by her incorrigible compulsion to alternately roll in or eat the foulest substance she can find. Which on Mayne means otter poo. Fret not, I shan't go any further into detail.

Dearest Wife, Little Man, and Darling Daughter are staying on on Mayne until Labour Day, which will give them a full six weeks of island time. For the kids, I'm hoping it'll be the stuff childhood memories are made of. Beach forts. Shells. Seaweed. Ice cream treats. For Dearest Wife, well, I hope she finds some soul-refresh time. I shall be joining them on weekends, temporarily locking the absurdities of finance in the boot of the car every Friday evening before stepping onto the ferry.

You might think that with both bride and bairns on the island I would be leading the life of a carefree, bachelor libertine. You know, leaving the toilet seat up because I can, going down the boozer every evening, frequenting discotheques, etcetera. Well, it's not like that at all. And why?

Because of flora.

No, no, no, not some floozy named big-eff Flora, but flora as in vegetation, greenery, things botanical. Goodness, where DO you get these ideas?

You see, Dearest Friends, Darling Wife is a keen gardener and I have been requested to ensure her plant empire remains watered and alive. Well, I say "requested," but the request came accompanied by a three-pages of instructions and the implication that should I neglect the plants I'd be better off buried beneath them.

To be fair, Darling Wife did set up a soaker hose on a timer for the back garden flowerbeds. And her instructions are written to cater for my horticultural illiteracy. But it's the pots that are killing me. You want to know how many she has? Guess.

Nope, more.

Give up? Just over one hundred of the buggers. Yes, a century of the things, ranging from tiddly seedling receptacles to a whacking huge ones in which you could hide a wombat, if there wasn't already a Japanese maple in it. There are some in the back garden, some in the front, some inside the house, some on the shower deck, and some on the top deck. And I spend ninety minutes each day checking and soaking them. Yes, an hour and a half.

Now bitching aside, I know both that Dearest Wife derives great pleasure and satisfaction from her horticulture, and that she's damn good at it. I also appreciate the results of her efforts and am pleasantly aware of the garden in general, but I really have little interest in the specifics. Which leads to many conversations like this:

Dearest Wife: "I'm really pleased with my Scrofula Scabulosa. Don't you think it looks marvellous?

FiL: (Engrossed in Betty Swallocks: The Memoirs of Lemmy Kilmister's Jockstrap) Mmm, yes.

DW: You're just saying that. You don't know which one I'm talking about.

F: Um, yes I do. It's the, er, red one. With the leaves.

DW: Oh, honestly (stalks out of room).

F: Sigh. (Returns to Betty, but enjoys it slightly less)

And so, Dearest Readers, that's why this little patch of blog garden is looking a bit limp and peaky as of late. I'll try to tend to it a bit better, most likely at night.

Love & Rockets - Yin & Yang (The Flowerpot Man) (buy here or e-here)
PiL - Flowers of Romance (buy here)
The Clientele - The Garden at Night (buy here or e-here)