Feed Your Habit


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

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!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Bill Clinton and The Power Within

Over 7000 mostly business people packed themselves into GM Place for the Power Within Conference. Seats were at a premium most likely due to the presence of Bill Clinton and Lance Armstrong. Clinton looking older and sounding a little hoarse still retains that charisma, which is part good ole boy from Arkansas, part seasoned politician. His speech perhaps reflected that personal dichotomy as he veered between urging us to reflect on the goodwill engendered by US efforts to help earthquake ravaged Pakistan and the massive relief effort undertaken by the world in the aftermath of the Tsunami to supporting democracy in Iraq and UN participation in Afghanistan.

In my opinion contradicting his above statement was his personal view that Iraq should not have been attacked until the UN inspectors had finished their investigations but since the invasion is now a fait accompli the real issue is democracy in Iraq. I still have a hard time understanding how democracy can be imposed on political entities from the outside and by force. The issue here is that a 45-minute speech can only go so far in addressing the real issues behind geo-politics and can perhaps have negative consequences as these issues get reduced in complexity in listener’s minds. (Clinton himself earlier maintained that headlines should be analysed along with trendlines and we should be asking ourselves if the story is true and part of a trend)

He went onto thank Canada (cue one of a few crowd-pleasing mentions of host country) for participation in Afghanistan. (Something our present PM (belly to attention) seems to also be fairly gung-ho about).
Clinton then launched into an indictment of the Taliban regime, talked about Al Qaeda maintaining that if the UN left Afghanistan then the doors would be open for the Taliban to return from Pakistan and enable Al Qaeda to re-establish itself. Again no real analysis here of what gave rise to such a repressive religious/political movement, what role the superpowers America and Russia played in Afghanistan during the Cold War, what role Pakistan still has to play or India for that matter.

9/11 is still foremost in most American minds. It’s the lightning rod against which everything is measured in the US these days. The US has always been exceptionally good at mythologizing it’s past and Clinton was no different.
The bombing of the World Trade Centre allowed him to introduce his main thesis or core thrust of his speech (not before a somewhat hesitant rambling explanation of how The Airplanes became giant chemical weapons which created the fireball which melted the steel structural supports of the WTC).

Clinton’s main thesis seems to revolve around the difference between Interdependence and Integration.
Canada and the US are an example of Interdependence where we’re locked in a marriage without a chance of divorce and all things considered we’re doing quite well even though we have our occasional differences such as Softwood lumber (Would someone try to reach a conclusion on this already, I for one am tired of hearing about it).

Integration on the other hand is a process where we acknowledge the diversity of populations in US and Canada and the rest of the world and attempt to move towards integrated communities with
1. Fair opportunities
2. Shared responsibilities
3. Common values

The question Bill (by now I’m on first name terms with him you’ll notice) thinks we all should be able to answer is “What is main characteristic of the 21st century?”
Answer: We need to save lives, solve problems and create a clear framework to understand the 21st century.

How do we move towards integration?
1.Fight terrorism with security policy (Again no mention of geo-political decisions which often may give rise to terrorism and indeed fuel the fire so to speak)
2.Identify security issues
3.Climate change (Here he went into a lengthy expose about how rising sea levels affect national security and a pat on the back for himself for saving Trees in US National Forests from being cut while his successor is trying to reverse that decision)
4.Health and Viruses (Clinton’s Aids Foundation sells cheapest drugs available)
5.Create clean energy
6.Have to make a deal i.e. More partners less enemies (e.g. helping Indonesia post Tsunami)
7.Keep making things better at home
8.Develop common values (Diversity good but common values should be pre-eminent)
A brief allusion to the Jordanian hotel bombings while noting that the attacks had killed many Muslims led Bill to claim that the central heresy of any religion is to maintain that your way is the only true way. (Far religious right are you listening?)

Humility is the order of the day.

so I’ll conclude by saying that I found the speech mostly unsatisfying. It skirted the real issues while maintaining that we should be focused on the real issues. It focused on helping people in need in certain situations (Indonesia and Pakistan) and at the same time supporting invasion of Iraq (with reservations) and Afghanistan. Sorta the Velvet Glove approach. I’m not sure you can really have it both ways but then Bill always did like to have his cake and eat it.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Techvibes Massive Technology Show & Conference

Telus World of Science is still encased in scaffolding with the Telus sign peaking out of the metal cladding. 12 cranes dot the horizon downtown while a cold wind scours the concrete apron encircling Science World. After inhaling my $8 mostly edible White Spot burger I headed back inside to do battle once more.

Techvibes’ Massive Conference/Showcase was well laid out in a circular fashion on 3 floors with a central showcase open auditorium area for quickie 15-minute pitches for various products.

I was somewhat impressed by CelVu’s product (Press release here) which enables clients to download pics to their cell phones of their residences and potential burglars as well as traffic hotspots. The software came with a disclaimer “Do not use while driving” which drew visions of hundreds of drivers (if the company can sell to enough people) pulling off the road and downloading the latest pic of Granville and 70Th and immediately hanging a U-turn and all racing off to find a quicker way to their destination. Chris Scholefield of CelVu did the sales pitch and with 15 years or so of Motorola experience behind him, I can’t help but think that it’s a solid product.

NetNation gave a pure sales pitch for their Web Hosting business. Nothing wrong with that, they had quite a deal for the attendees but what is it with PowerPoint presentations and Typo’s? It’s “Suit your customers” not “Suite” See also the Telus VoIP PowerPoint Slideshow where at least 3 more errors reared their Spelling Bee heads

Curtis Nicholson explained the benefits of VoIP to businesses.
The notion of Telus trying to save customers money strikes me as little odd but I guess as long as the stock price keeps on going up, the shareholders will remain happy and Darren Entwhistle keeps his job.
Seems to me that VoIP is mainly useful to businesses that have a T1 connection which enables upload and download speeds to remain equal, i.e. no jitter/dropped packets etc, which you’d get with a cable/ADSL connection.
Security also seems to be an issue unless info is routed along secure VPN lines; Gahtan’s Blog has something to say about this.
However there are certainly cost savings to be had by eliminating long distance charges.

Vicky Ryan of Chalk Media enlightened us about E-Learning and added more acronyms to the heavy load we already bear. When the whole English language becomes a long list of acronyms what then?
She briefly demoed a rather spiffy looking in-house training module that Future Shop uses to train their salespeople. Remember that, next time a horde of salespeople descends on you touting the latest MP3 Flash player. Perhaps head over to Best Buy where they don’t work on commission but may well have had a similar e-learning experience. Unfortunately I missed Dave Chalk’s Web 2.0 talk opting instead for the Telus VoIP session.

Moving on to the booths here are some quick thoughts. I had some enjoyable chats with many people and lets face it they were busy trying to promote and sell product/services although one particular individual might at least have nodded in my direction. were the one and only (that I came across anyhow) company promoting business blogging software (apart perhaps from Bryght. Great T-shirt Mr. Kris Krug!). Great idea however they seem at the moment to be mainly concentrating on Marketing/Communication professionals. I was intrigued by how the “Approval Loops” are integrated into the modules and how well this would work in companies.

Still love the sleek looks of the Fujitsu Laptop’s. Someone hired some top-flight designers for this company.

iStock Photo. Apart from being exceedingly friendly and willing to chat this Calgary based company supplies Photographs to anyone willing to purchase them. Sort of a cheaper Getty/Corbus web service. Although I see now that they have been purchased by Getty but are supposedly to remain independent of the parent company I was impressed although came away not quite clear on how copyright issues were dealt with. More research on their web site I guess is needed.

Grabbed a few copies of Backbone magazine (Business/Technology and Lifestyle) apparently included in the Globe and Mail.
It’s a well-written mag, which also includes a column by none other than Jim Harris, leader of the Green Party! Not necessarily likely to get me subscribing to the Globe however.

Keith Stacey, Sales Director of IVCi(Video Conferencing) seemed quite content to let me chat to Monica in Calgary? over a somewhat overloaded T1 connection. Blame all those Exhibitors and attendees. No hard selling here he was easygoing and relaxed. What a pleasure.

Mission Control is another company (“No matter how well organized we are we simply can’t get it all done”) that’s attempting to change the stressful Workday habits we all seem to have. Here’s another quote from their blurb. (“Your work habits are causing your stress-not your work”) Speaking for myself I’d have to say that’s often the case. Francesco de Gaetano, Sales Associate for Mission Control took the time to explain the company’s mission (sorry!) and considering he has a Masters Degree in Psychology seems to have the requisite qualifications. Mission Control has done some work for Microsoft and you can view a demo here.

So hopefully business was done/networking opportunities kindled. Competitors rejuvenated. Thanks to Rachel for the ticket and the warm welcome!

Update: Thanks to Will Pate again for directing me to this rather um, lively discussion on Shaw's QOS enhancement fee for VoIP