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Feed Your Habit

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Older than I'd like to be,younger than I'd like to be. Still raging against mass culture/conformity .. to be continued

Friday, April 06, 2012

Aaron Birthday

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Ron Stewart and The Auditor General


It’s old news now and it’s taken me a while to settle down and post some thoughts on Ron Stewart’s tenure as Ombudsman for the Office of Correctional Investigation (OCI).
The Office of the Auditor General of Canada conducted an audit into OCI affairs and concluded that Ron Stewart “had committed serious abuses and wrongdoing, some of which resulted in substantial personal benefit”

It appears that in addition to other allegations Ron Stewart did little or no work during the 6 years of the audit and claimed ‘cash out’ of annual leave, as he apparently never took a vacation in 14 years.
The full report actually makes fascinating reading and predictably it became a juicy news story for a few days.

The Vancouver Sun dutifully paraphrased the full report with a photograph supplied by Canwest News Service of Ron Stewarts’s cottage on Upper Rideau Lake. I can't find the link online for this story but here's the Ottawa Citizen follow-up and picture of the cottage.

For one thing only in Canada would you refer to a rather large summerhouse as a cottage. My initial reaction to the photograph of Ron Stewart’s “cottage” where he apparently spent most of his working hours was a derisive snort.
“Cottage” uh no that’s a “mansion”. Well hasty conclusions of that sort never bode well, which sent me to Google in an attempt to find the definition of cottage. Well as it turns out www.answers.com has a whole section devoted to the rather unique definition of cottage in Canada’s Cottage Country. If you own a property in Cottage country it can be considered a cottage even if it looks like a mansion.

Suitably chastened I embarked on an alternative train of thought.

Ron Stewart worked at the OCI for a long time, 26 years it appears yet the audit into his tenure only covered the last 6 years. Apparently he has unfairly denuded Canada’s treasury to the tune of $325 000. One can presumably conclude that he put his full working hours in at the office for the 20 years prior to the audit period.

What qualifications did he initially have in order to be an Ombudsman for federal offenders. At the very least a Social Work degree one would hope. It seems odd that a highly successful running back for the Ottawa Rough Riders football team would be able to step into a post acting as ombudsman without some background in criminology both practical and theoretical. It took some digging but I finally found this Ottawa Sun article defending Ron Stewart written by Earl McRae mentioning that he was a Law graduate from Queens University.

Ron Stewarts’ lawyers are vociferously denying the Auditor Generals allegations and maintaining that his reputation has been unfairly maligned in the court of public opinion.

It’s highly ironic if the allegations are proven to be valid, that the Ombudsman of the OCI would have been entrusted during his 26-year tenure with the welfare of federal prisoners some of whom were presumably themselves serving long sentences for financial offences.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Canada's New Government

It appears that Canada's New Government is flexing it's muscles. It was reported today in the Victoria Times Colonist that The Minister of Natural Resources - Gary Lunn ordered federal government scientist Andrew Okulitch to refer to the Government as "Canada's New Government". Mr Okulitch reportedly fired off a reply that objected to this new terminology or as he put it "Political Slogan"

Mr Okulitch was promptly fired from his position as scientist emeritus by assistant deputy minister Irwin Itzkovitch.

Apparently clarification came from the ministry shortly afterwards explaining that the new wording was compulsory only in documents being presented to Lunn or being prepared on his behalf.

Imagine my surprise as CBC broadcast Heritage Minister Bev Oda accepting the resignation of CBC chairman "Guy Fournier" (due to his increasingly odd comments in the media) on behalf of "Canada's New Government"

A quick Google search affirms that the terminology Canada's New Government is also operative on the Government of Canada's website where The Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Social Development announced that parents across Canada had started receiving their second monthly Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) cheques for $100 per child under the age of six.

So far from it being an isolated issue with Gary Lunn's ministry it cuts across at least 3 Government Departments.

It's highly ironic of course that Minister Gary Lunn whose career of political opportunism has finally landed him a place in cabinet views dissent with such a jaundiced eye.

One has to wonder why it's so important to order federal government employees to refer to Canada's New Government. Why stop there? Why not "Canada's New & Improved Government: We Add Value."

Take a walk down any grocery aisle the possibilities are endless.

Welcome to Canada's "New" Government!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Canadian Country Music Awards and God

When you’re doomed to the 2-channel universe the mind tends to focus on what’s available. Well not entirely true, I’ve access to a grainy, snowy CBC channel which last night broadcast the Canadian Country Music Awards aka CCMA.

The ebullient oh so perky hosts enthusiasm on CBC contrasted with my confirmed belief and complete lack of understanding in the inexplicable popularity of “Great Big Sea” Please people “Shane McGowan” may be a sloppy old drunk but “The Pogues” …. and if you haven’t heard of them frankly there’s nothing more to say.

George Canyon… was there ever a more perfectly styled Country Artist name. All you aspiring country music artists are going to have to work hard to top that one. Well George of course wore the big hat, which he ever so humbly removed twice so you could see his face. Prior to that all you could see was a shadowy outline.
George won for Best Song and if I remember correctly, promptly thanked Jesus Christ! That’s it, the final straw that broke the pinto horse’s back. If I ever have the good fortune to be in charge of an Award Show the first contractual stipulation (in bold) will be: ”Under no circumstances will any award winner thank any unseen entity for having a hand in their success or lack thereof. In addition please do not thank “The Fans” that long-suffering amorphous conglomerate who have summoned you to these proceedings”

Anne Murray on the other hand paid tribute to and thanked “Bruce Allen” . Now “Bruce Allen” and humble are 3 words never before seen in the same sentence so in a sense you could say that Anne Murray also thanked God. Though to his credit Bruce did thank his “team” without which etc etc.

Amanda Wilkinson (part of the Wilkinson family) had an appealing voice and stage presence despite singing a bog-standard pop/rock song (please don’t call it country) with a chorus that tried valiantly to be catchy but sadly wasn’t quite up to it.

So attention waning, I departed the dotty CBC. Tonight “Rock Star Supernova.” , 2 channels focuses the mind like nothing else. I’m hoping for “Dilana” but Toby will probably be the winner. Hopefully he won’t thank “Jesus Christ” but will thank “Tommy Lee” which is another story entirely.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Grates opening for We are Scientists @ The Red Room Vancouver BC 29 Mar 2006

Flinging herself around with reckless abandon Patience Hodgson is a performer with a mission. Zany aerobics instructor or throwback to a 1920’s Flapper dance perhaps. Possibly so irrepressibly energetic and happy that she can only articulate her artistic vision if she spends 75% of her time onstage actually partly above the stage. She proceeds to bounce around, arms and legs waving madly as if she literally has to express the youthful energy racing around her blood vessels.

Much to my consternation she’s at all times coordinated in her ‘dancing’ although legs and arms and body may be doing different things while throwing kooky angular shadow shapes. First time seeing “The Grates” at SXSW 2005 edition they just made me smile, second time around, it took all my energy trying to figure out how she managed to dance and then sing into the microphone without sounding completely breathless.

The appeal of "The Grates" is timeless, they represent the boundless energy of youth/good times and joy of three friends enjoying themselves while at the same time creating catchy/hooky pop songs full of sing-a-long potential. Patience’s stage chatter is ad-lib, she’s thinking it up as she goes along and some of her quips provoked outright laughter from guitarist John. Drummer Alana’s grin and self-evident sparkling smile is further evidence that a dose of “The Grates” is guaranteed to put some pep into the creaking joints of even the most jaded/cynical music fan and bound to send an already contented and well adjusted fan into a state of over-excitement.

Let Patience be your guide.

Coming soon some thoughts on Headliners "We are Scientists"

Monday, March 27, 2006

Kelly Willis, Bruce Robison and Claritin D


There’s something happening in the world of entertainment where the lines of musical expression and promotion of products is becoming more and more blurred. (Some would argue that musical artistic expression is indelibly linked to the need to promote and sell a product) I noticed that the NCAA college basketball ad breaks were inundated with a plethora of advertisements utilising pop tunes amongst others a snatch of an Oasis song and a full blown ad featuring “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" by Iron Butterfly)

Still I nearly fell over backwards in my rocking chair when who should pop up in a commercial break between segments on 60 minutes on CBS but Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison!

I’ve noticed recently that American TV is inundated with advertisements for what are essentially pills for all kinds of ailments (Some real, some manufactured: See Selling Sickness by Alan Cassels).

So perhaps it should have come as no surprise to see Kelly and Bruce filmed in concert singing an admittedly catchy tune and then interrupting the song to give a heads up on the benefit of Claritin-D an allergy medicine. Now I’m more used to Kelly Willis singing songs of heartbreak in that nasal twang so beloved of country artists. I always felt that Kelly Willis brought an element of honesty and forthrightness to the high gloss Nashville scene. Her CD’s are all recommended and while she has faded into the background in the last few years (mostly to devote time to family I presume) her “What I Deserve” CD is a high watermark in an extensive career.

A few minutes afterwards up popped another Allergy medicine ad this time for Zyrtec manufactured by Pfizer and a Diabetes ad and a Hip Replacement ad. Interesting demographics in the 60 minutes audience.

Bruce Robison has this to say on his website admittedly in the context of recording and marketing his CD’s on his own label.
“Artists shouldn’t have to sell their souls just to get studio time. That’s a broken model. There’s a better way out there and I’m interested in providing it.”

Well it looks like Kelly and Bruce have found a better way but if Claritin-D catches on will the entire Nashville music industry have to take a hard look at itself? When country artists no longer have that nasal twang then what? Will anybody recognize that latest hit song sung by their favorite artist when they no longer sound anything like they used to?

Let's hope Claritin-D doesn't catch on with your favorite indie rocker. Britt Daniel of Spoon anyone?

Friday, March 24, 2006

Hugh Cornwell @ The Media Club Vancouver Mar 23 2006


Every article these days has to contain a multitude of statistical information so here goes. How many years since Hugh Cornwell visited Vancouver? Answer: 23. How old is Hugh Cornwell? Answer: 57. When did he leave the Stranglers? Answer: 1990. What was the average age of the Media Club Audience? Answer: 75. Well if you’re paying attention that’s obviously an exaggeration but there couldn’t have been more than a handful of people under 35 years at Hugh’s solo acoustic show at The Media Club on Mar 23, 2006.


Hard to believe I was actually listening to live acoustic versions of Stranglers’ songs intermingled with songs off Hugh’s latest release “Beyond Elysian Fields” (actually released in Oct 2004 which in itself is a year and a half ago) 30 years on.

There were always 4 bands, which to my mind remain archetypal English punk icons.
The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Boomtown Rats (Don’t believe me listen to their 1st CD produced by our future Mr. Shania Twain “Mutt Lange”) and last but not least “The Stranglers”. They really weren’t true punks (whatever that means) since they were all at the time quite a bit older than the rest of their peers and had started off as a pub rock band. Step up Mr Joe Strummer of the 101ers

Still Ratticus Norvegicus 1V remains a high water mark of the 1976 musical storm that raged over England for a brief period. The Stranglers are still going today albeit with a new vocalist and their staying power is really a tribute to their continued musical progression (The Meninblack anyone?) through the years.

Hugh is remarkably well preserved, looking fit, sipping water he mixed up the Strangler’s hits (opener “Nice and Sleazy does it every time”) with songs from the latest release and it worked well. Crowd singalongs on “Hanging Around” with immaculately picked solo, “Always the Sun”, “No More Heroes” highlighted the fact that there’s a deep catalogue of catchy tunes and choruses that Hugh and gang wrote during their 16 years together. The new songs meshed well with the old and familiar still displaying that trademark wit combined with some unique subject matter e.g. Harry Power, Ned Kelly's mentor so to speak and a humorous song about artist Henry Moore.

Opener Rich Hope managed to drown out the chattering class with some manic, guitar strumming, finger-pickin', stomping, acoustic blues and drew appropriate hoots and hollers. Well worth checking out.
Lastly a shout out to James and his crew who were following the Hugh Cornwell show with Walter Trout at The Yale and then Deus at The Red Room all in one night. Now that’s hardcore and these guys weren’t 20 years old either!