Sunday, March 29, 2009

Couldn't Be Bothered Hour

via Flickr

Another Earth Hour, another year Torontonian's ask "How little can I do?" I'm starting to think Earth Hour should be renamed "The Least I Can Do Hour", or "I Couldn't Be Bothered Hour". To be fair, this year Torontonians almost doubled their participation. Last year there was a 8 per cent dip in power demand while this year Toronto showed a 15 per cent drop in power use. Province wide the drop was 6 per cent. The significance probably shows people did more than just turn off their lights (as lighting only accounts for only 5 per cent of energy use). I think it's fair on Earth Hour to just turn off any unnecessary appliance. Lights, television, computers etc.

Yesterday, as two well-earning childless professionals, we dried our laundry out side instead of using the dryer, turned off the timers for any exterior lights and at the prescribed hour we turned off all of our lights and went out for a walk to experience a darkened city.

Unfortunately in our neighbourhood, known as an environmentally considerate area (check previous polls for votes for the Green Party), hardly any lights were out. In fact, some idiots still had their Christmas lights out and on! (For the love of God, Robbie Burns has been feted, St. Valentine remembered, Family Day observed and pancakes consumed for Shrove Tuesday - LET IT GO! TAKE DOWN THOSE LIGHTS!). I suppose I don't really want to knock businesses that would find it difficult to turn off lights but what pisses me off is people at home kept their lights burning and televisions glowing.

Critics of Earth Hour claim that a few percentage points of electrical savings over a single hour is pointless and merely a symbol. Well morons, that's exactly the point! It is SYMBOLIC. Symbols are hardly pointless. Unless you think crucifixes, crescents and maple leaves are unimportant. There's my complaint. Turning off your lights for an hour is such a small and easy thing to do that not doing it, is simply absurd. You couldn't even get up from the couch to flip a switch? No one's asking you to run a marathon, give a $100, or anything. Why not even try it?

We would've been better off sabotaging the Dufferin transformer station at 8:29. We probably saved a lot more electricity for the 24 hours the power went out in January. The night of that blackout, I had difficulty walking home because it was as black as new asphalt. Notably, after the power outage in 2003 that knocked out the Eastern seaboard, North America had a net drop in pollution for the year because there was no power for those three days in August (making you wonder if every industry shut down for a week in August and we all just went to the beach, would there be a similar effect?)

When you lose power for a few hours it makes you think what a post-electrical society would be like. Imagine electricity being so expensive that you could only use it for only the most necessary of services. Solar powered laptops would be the norm. As would wood stoves. Television, microwave ovens, washers and dryers would have to be given up. We might switch from electric light to kerosene lanterns, or listen to only wind-up radios. It could be done, just like the way our grand parents (or as in my case, my parents) were raised. The house I live in pre-dates electric light and heat, and one would assume, indoor plumbing. If they could do it, I don't see why I couldn't.

Except of course, most of my neighbours (immediate neighbours exempted) cannot be bothered to turn off a light or even bother not turning one on in the first place. That's why we're at a crisis in history. If you can't be bothered to make a gesture, how are you going to change your planet?


Friday, March 27, 2009

LAB Mixtapes: Episode 8

I'm being a little lazy this week1. Each of these tracks make regular appearances on several CBC Radio3 Podcasts so really I'm just passing along what I've heard.

I honestly don't have much interest in the sort of macho and misogynistic offerings of Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dog or Fifty Cent. Yet, in the cold climes of Canada we've developed a different, smarter and more upbeat urban sound. Artists like Cadence Weapon, Shad, K'Naan, and Buck65 have developed and cultivated a kind of indie Hip Hop you don't hear often enough from terrestrial radio. Their arrangements and samples are inventive and their lyrics are witty and smart. Please enjoy this gun and ho-free Hip Hop.

Episode 8
Runs 11:20 mins

Links below will launch the iTunes Music Store.
1. In Search of the Youth Crew - Cadence Weapon
2. The Old Prince Still Lives at Home - Shad
3. Rocketship - Mood Ruff

1. This, of course assumes that I am otherwise typically industrious which would be inaccurate. I will also take this opportunity to apologize for the poor quality of this podcast as some rather over zealous compression led to excessive fuzz and distortion.
*Re-recording would probably have corrected this. See FN1.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Opposing Forces

THIS is the opposite of THIS.

All part of Life's Rich Pageant/Tapestry/Thingamajig.


Friday, March 20, 2009

LAB Mixtapes: Episode 7

The 80's weren't so bad and here's the proof. Bands like Interpol, Bloc Party and Kasabian seem to channel an 80's indie sound - in a good way. Their influences appear to be Joy Division, The Smiths, and The Cure and prove that despite the dreck of mainstream radio (which happens in every era) there was, in fact, a lot of fine music in the Decade of Me. Please enjoy and feel free to don mascara and your Chuck Taylor high-tops.

Episode 7.
Runs 12:06 mins

Links below will launch the iTunes Music Store.
1. Obstacle 1 - Interpol
2. The Reason is Treason - Kasabian
3. Banquet - Bloc Party

For no particular reason, some other bands that appeared on my Radar at the same time as these would The Artic Monkeys, Snow Patrol (snow theme here?), British Sea Power and maybe Franz Ferdinand. Which reminds me that a Manchester Mix with the likes of Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and The Buzzcocks might also be on deck.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

St. John's on My Mind

image via Newfoundland & Labrador Heritage Web site

Still feeling elegiac about St. John's.


Friday, March 13, 2009

LAB Mixtapes: Episode 6

This week I'm shifting gears a little. Philip Glass, popularly mocked in programs like the Simpsons and South Park, is the American grand daddy of a minimalist orchestral sound. Sometimes it seems like he is the sole patent holder on experimental, complex and modern classical music but he is really a descendent of a long line of artists who appear to have heard beauty in mathematics and found popularity through film scores. Lesser known to North Americans is Michael Nyman who has provided evocative music for half a dozen Peter Greenaway films. What reminded me of Nyman and Glass were the string arrangements of Owen Pallett aka Final Fantasy (2006 winner of the Polaris Music Prize). Though their approaches and compositions differ, the stirring strings and keyboards feel like cousins. As challenging as this music may seem to some, you really should hang in there for the whole thing. It's good for you. Suddenly I feel like Clyde Gilmour of Gilmour's Albums. I can almost smell the Sunday roast coming out of the oven*.

Episode 6
Runs 12:54 mins

Links below open in the iTunes Music Store
Track 1. Koyaanisqatsi: Resource - Philip Glass
Track 2. Fish beach (Drowning By Numbers) - Michael Nyman
Track 3. He Poos Clouds - Final Fantasy

*Coincidentally, Owen Pallett was for a time, the music director of Vinyl Café, CBC's anodyne Sunday afternoon program which now fills the spot long held by Clyde Gilmour — consider all dots connected.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

The Films of February

Only saw five films in February? That doesn't seem quite right. Then
again I think we rented a couple that we didn't watch - there's $9
I'll never see again.

Seen in February

Feb 7th: Rocknrolla
Feb 12th: La Promesse
Feb 15th: 84 Charing Cross Road
Feb 19th: Belly of an Architect
Feb 27th: Beauty and the Beast (1946)

Quickly noted, "Rocknrolla" is very similar to any other Guy Ritchie film — so yes, recommended. "La Promesse" is a sometimes hard to watch Belgian story - also recommended. "84 Charing Cross Road" - charming tale (I think it may have inspired "You've Got Mail") noteworthy for Ann Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins but do you really need to see Tony in another tale of unrequited love? I didn't think so. "Belly of an Architect" is just one of those Peter Greenaway flicks I've always wanted to see. Brian Dennehey doesn't seem at all like a Greenaway kind of actor but is pretty great in this. "Beauty and the Beast" is one of Criterion's "Art House Essentials" so I had to see it if I wanted to continue to be a big fat film snob. Done.


Friday, March 06, 2009

LAB Mixtapes: Episode 5

Continuing with a Canadian indie theme, these three acts have so many great tracks amongst them that it's hard to choose just one from each. Again proving the ascendancy of Canadian indie music, not just in the quality but also the sheer breadth of talent, these acts have probably found more success outside of the country than within it. The Dears, with their Smiths inspired sound found an audience in the UK, Metric found fans in New York City night clubs while The New Pornographers played throughout the US and had regular air play on stations like KEXP in Seattle and KCRW in Santa Monica.

These bands also demonstrate that "high-quality Pop" is not an oxy-moron.

Episode 5
Runs 14:18 mins

Note: Links will launch iTunes.
Track 1. Lost in the Plot - The Dears
Track 2. Hardwired - Metric
Track 3. The Bleeding Heart Show - The New Pornographers

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Illustrated Man

via This Magazine

A friend just sent me this brilliant book, The Shatner Show which documents 76 images/illustrations/portraits by various artists inspired by the man hisself. This is exactly why "we stand on guard for thee".

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