Saturday, December 31, 2011


A few nights ago I watched Drive starring Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. I'm not really familiar with Refn's work. The first thing that struck me was the most unconventional soundtrack I've heard in a long time featuring what sounded to me like 80's synth pop. Some of the music I really hated, some of it seemed to work but mostly it seemed to continually draw my attention away from the movie. The whole movie seemed to have an odd late seventies, early eighties feel to it. Aside from the occasional cellphone this film could easily have been made in 1978 with Steve McQueen in the leader role. The role certainly felt like a Steve McQueen part and, oddly enough, in the poster Gosling even looks like McQueen.

I would probably list Gosling as one of my favorite actors of his generation. My first exposure to Gosling was in the 2001 film "The Believer". Gosling would have been roughly 20 at the time and he single handedly carried the film through his incredibly powerful performance as Danny Balint, a young Jewish man who becomes a neo-nazi. In Drive Gosling's character, the unnamed "Driver" is the anti-Balint. Where Balint was able to move people to hate with the powerful force of his words, the Driver rarely speaks at all and has no interest in changing anyone's mind. I think he has half a dozen lines which are sentences of more than two words.

The other thing that really stood out for me was the violence. It was extremely and gratuitously violent. I'm not generally one to complain about excessive violence but it went to far for me to give it a recommendation.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Resurgence of Revenge.

I've been wondering lately what the resurgence of the revenge film says about the state of American culture. I remember a teacher in junior high describing the film "I Spit on Your Grade" to me as the epitome of everything that was cheap and base about 70's shock films. Just the title is a parody of the genre and yet in the past two years we've seen remakes of "Last House on the Left", "I Spit on Your Grave" and "Straw Dogs", which was just released on video, just to name a few of the higher profile examples. I think part of the trend may be driven by the return of "grindhouse" films like, well, Grindhouse by Tarantino and Rodriguez as well as the "Kill Bill" films.

But somehow I get the feeling that there is a political and cultural similarity between the 70's and the late 00's. The war in Vietnam and the war in Iraq. The economic recession. The extreme polarization of the electorate. There's also a general attitude of angry bitterness on both sides of the political spectrum as well as a sense of alienation.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Sarah the Christian Scholar Palin

Here's what Sarah Palin said on Sean Hannity's show on Fox Wednesday night -

"No administration in America's history would, I think, ever have considered such a step that we just found out President Obama is supporting today.

It's kinda like getting out there on a playground, a bunch of kids, getting ready to fight, and one of the kids saying, 'Go ahead, punch me in the face and I'm not going to retaliate. Go ahead and do what you want to with me.'"

Gee Miss I'm-All-About-Christian-Values, why does that sound so familiar? Maybe the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:38-39) -

"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."

Nothing annoys me more than "Christian" politicians who don't know the first thing about Christ. Most Christian scholars regard the Sermon on the Mount as the core of Christ's message and while the Bible may contain many sayings attributed to Jesus for various political reasons, the Sermon on the Mount is probably the best of example of what we can be reasonably certain Jesus actually said. I'm a Buddhist and I know more about Christ's teaching than these bozos. Sheesh, try reading a book.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Shorter Canadian Climate Change Policy ...

We're not going to stop selling dime bags of heroin at the junior high until everyone agrees to stop selling dime bags of heroin at the junior high. We just want things to be fair. Besides we don't sell nearly as much heroin at the junior high as the really big dealers.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Canada Geese Menace

I'm supposed to be finishing my Ottawa Jazz Festival picks but just remembered a conversation I heard on the radio last night.

I'm listening to As It Happens last night on my way to Roddy Elias' 60th birthday party and they are interviewing Martin Lowney (sp?) in NY who says they are going to start culling Canada Geese around the NY airports. Not that controversial if you ask me. Early on he mentioned that they have "resident" geese who stay all year round which seemed off to me. He distinguished between migratory geese and resident geese but to my knowledge ALL Canada Geese migrate. I know ducks have a habit of becoming "resident" if they can find a year round source of food but I doubt Canada Geese can sustain themselves in NY through the winter.

Then he explained how they were planning to catch the geese and said this method has been used elsewhere. He says during the summer the geese lose their feathers and become flightless. Then they will herd the geese into pens so they can be removed and euthanized. Now Carol Off didn't seem at all phased by this plan. Am I missing something or is this nuts? Canada Geese are never flightless ... they are just too lazy and stubborn to fly when crossing the road and just prefer to hiss at passing cars and cyclists but they can fly all summer, at least as far as I'm aware. And I can say definitively that Canada Geese never lose ALL of their feathers. I think I would have noticed dozens of butt-ugly bald Canada Geese lounging around the Ottawa parks. I can't believe this guy is totally out to lunch but he clearly was not talking about the same bird I would call a Canada Goose.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Ottawa Jazz Festival 2009

The Ottawa Jazz Festival looks particularly good this year. The last couple of years they have seriously returned to seeking out actual jazz acts. I'm pretty out of touch with what's really going on in the jazz world but here's my top ten list anyway -

  1. Esperanza Spaulding - Tuesday June 30th Confederation Park - She's a 24 yr old bassist already teaching at the Berklee School of Music in Boston. She's not exactly a virtuoso bassist but very tasteful and with a beautiful voice. Oh yeah, did I mention sexy, sexy, sexy?? She recently played the White House.
  2. Gary Burton Quartet - Sunday June 28th Confederation Park - Great band (Pat Metheny, Steve Swallow and Antonio Sanchez) and Gary Burton is a true virtuoso on the vibes. Here's a sample of that band. Steve Swallow has one of the most refreshing approaches to the electric bass and I have never had the opportunity to see him live.
  3. MARIA SCHNEIDER ORCHESTRA - Monday June 29th Confederation Park - One of the greatest big bands in existence. It's an all-star band and she writes extremely original, cutting edge compositions. She's also one of the jazz world's most sought after arrangers. Youtube sample.
  4. The Bad Plus - Saturday July 4th Confederation Park - In some ways a pretty controversial band. Alot of jazz purists hate them because they play mostly covers of pop tunes. I actually discovered them thru the band's blog. I haven't read it in a while but they had some great interviews awhile back. Here's their version of Everybody Wants to Rule the World. They also do Tom Sawyer, Smells Like Teens Spirit, When the Levee Breaks, etc, etc.
  5. Thursday July 2nd at 9:00 is a tough choice. There is Seven Strands of Sound featuring Petr Cancura, who I've played with many times but haven't heard in years. I've been hearing great things about his playing. Plus Truro homegirl Tena Palmer is singing with the group and Pierre-Yves Martel is playing the Viola de Gamba. Sounds like a great show. Unfortunately they are up against Wayne Shorter of the 1960s classic Miles Davis Quintet and Weather Report. He has written some of the greatest modern jazz classics (Footprints, ESP, Fee Fi Fo Fum, Infant Eyes, Witch Hunt, Speak No Evil). Tough choice. I may actually cheat and go see Wayne Shorter in Montreal. Later the same evening is a chance to see Ilmiliekki Quartet followed by Mark Dresser with Trio M at 4th Stage but that's mostly just me speaking as a bass player.
  6. Brian Blade and the Freedom Band followed by Charles Lloyd's New Quartet - Sunday July 5th, Confederation Park - I don't know that much about Brian Blade or the Freedom Band but its one of those bands that I have been meaning to check-out based on fantastic word-of-mouth. Charles Lloyd is another musician that I don't know alot about except his bands have often introduced some of the best musicians of the day, including Keith Jarrett. One thing I learn about him on Wikipedia is he took time of from jazz in the late 60's - early 70's to practice Transcendental Meditation and played and toured with the Beach Boys.
  7. Dave Douglas and Brass Ecstasy - Thursday June 25 Confederation Park. I'm a big fan of Dave Douglas' work with Masada and the Tiny Bell Trio. This group sounds amazing and I'm always keen on hearing improve based music without chording instruments (guitar/piano). Hears a sample without the french horn player. Followed by Roberta Gambarini with an incredible band (Cyrus Chestnut, Neil Swainson and Jimmy Cobb).
  8. Chucho Valdés Quintet - Friday July 3rd, Confederation Park - - I'm a big Afro-Cuban fan but I find it difficult to find (or describe) the kind of Cuban music I like. Chucho Valdés fits the bill just fine. Here's a nice sample with a great bass solo.
  9. Claudia Acuna - Friday July 3, Confederation Park - More Latin Jazz from this Chilean born, New York based singer. OK, I stole this one from Peter Hum's top ten in the Ottawa Citizen this morning. Chucho Valdés and Claudia Acuna back to back on a Friday night sounds like a party in the park to me. Without dancing ofcourse; this is Ottawa after all.
  10. and my final jazz festival recommendation - drumroll please - the Steve Groves Quartet at the Rideau Centre, Saturday July 4th at noon. Steve has been mainstay of the Ottawa jazz scene for many years. The group includes 15 year old Daniel Ko on Alto sax, Don Johnson on drums and yours truly on bass. Shameless self promotion is a persistent feature of blogging, don't you know.
Please come out and support the Ottawa Jazz Festival's decision to choose jazz artists as opposed to pseudo-jazz pop artists.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Obama's Policies

I've been inactive on this blog for quite a but as an alternative to writing a letter to the editor of the Citizen, I thought I would express some ideas here first and maybe follow up with said letter. First I'd like to be clear, I don't read Dave Warren. I have read his editorial contributions to the Citizen in the past and sometimes I read the headline and the first couple of lines but then I think to myself "Nothing good will come of this. Read no further. Don't do it to yourself". Today I failed to follow that advice and read this column.

First of all I've been following some of the polling on Obama's performance and I have no idea where Warren is getting this idea that Obama's policies are not going over very well. This poll is from a month ago but I don't think its wise to change course on a day to day basis according to the latest polls. People aren't happy about the economy. They don't feel confident the steps Obama is taking are going to be sufficient to turn the economy around and they have every right to feel uncertain about the future. According to the latest Rasmussen polls 68% believe that the majority of bailout money is going to the people who caused the crisis and I don't see how anyone can dispute that is the case. And Americans are hesitant to push forward on health reform duing an economic crisis but its ludicrous to sugggest that Americans don't overwhelmingly favor comprehensive health care reform. However, those who are decidely negative about Obama's performance and policies are the pundit class, which includes Mr. Warren. And it seems to me that these negative opinions have been getting more than their fair share of airplay.

The main argument I take exception to is this idea that the American people voted for Obama because they were sick of the Republicans, not because they were in favor of his policies. Odd how we've been told in the past two US elections that "anyone but Bush" was a strategy that could not win. A Democrat could only get elected by suggesting alternative policies. And now we're told that in fact people only voted for Obama because he wasn't a Republican. But remember Obama wasn't just a Democrat with liberal policies. He had the most liberal voting record in the Senate (I won't dwell on the fact that oddly enough John Kerry was the previous "most liberal Senator"). He was the number one liberal in the Senate but somehow when people elect this uber-liberal they are expressing their desire to be a center-right nation. Mr.Warren's explanation for this phenomenom? Middle America is stupid.

But then comes the kicker - "The video to Iran is the latest catastrophe. Mr. Obama simply does not understand how his 'olive branch' will be received, not only by the mullahs in Iran itself, but wherever else on the surface of the planet the United States has enemies."

I'm going to go out on a limb here but I'm willing to speculate that David Warren has no idea how this olive branch will be received by the mullahs in Iran. I'd be willing to bet that David Warren has never been to Iran. Just for the record, since it is a fact which is grossly under reported, the Iranian mullahs have declared nuclear weapons un-Islamic and sworn to never develop them. I think we can all agree that the mullahs take religious matters seriously. Whether, as a matter of foreign policy, we choose to believe this is a sincere fatwah against nuclear weapons is debatable but I for one would like to see this fact mentioned everytime someone mentions Ahmadinehad's professed desire to wipe Israel off the map because the truth is, regardless of what Ahmadinejad says, the mullahs run Iran and call all the shots.

I can say without a shadow of a doubt that President Obama's olive branch to Iran has an infinitely greater chance of resolving the ongoing conflict between the US and Iran than more tough talk as a way to avoid showing any signs of weakness. You know what is a sign of weakness? When we all laughed and laughed at the idea that the Iraqis could withstand the full force of the American military and now 4,000 American soldiers are dead. 4,000. 90% of those deaths don't even involve the Iraqi military or any kind of serious military arsenal. How about Afghanistan? How about Bin Laden? That old saying "Better to be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt" also applies to looking weak and incompetent.

The whole world knows that the US can talk tough about Iran and Syria and Pakistan all it wants but it's hands are tied. How exactly does one launch a war against Iran with 130,000 troops stationed next door? And in term of being state sponsors of terrorism, Iraq has nothing on Iran. Iraq should never have even made the list. Iran has a seriously outdated military but a military none-the-less (Iraq had basically nothing left by 2003) and a huge terrorist network at its command.

See ... now I've spent two hours writing this rant when I should be reading my CCNA study guide and doing the labs. Just say no to David Warren.

Update: I'd also like to point out how sick I am of hearing how unqualified and inexperienced Obama is. Bush had never been outside the US before he was elected president ... not even to Canada! To quote Lewis Black "Even drunk on a bet you make it to Canada!". Based on that alone, Bush was never qualified to make foreign policy decisions.

Update 2: Warren has a kindred spirit in William the Bloody who, along with Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, holds the dubious distinction of never having been right about anything. Kristol objects to Obama referring to Iran as the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is the official name of the country, and laments the fact the Obama doesn't make any explicit or implied threat of consequences if Iran doesn't stop it program of developing nuclear weapons. A program which Iran says it doesn't have and the US has no credibile evidence of the existence of such a program. I ask you, Mr. Kristol, when did you stop beating your wife?

Update 3: Boy, Obama's approval ratings sure have taken a beating. Hmmmm let's compare that graph with this graph.