let's make a 2006 tetralogy

December 31, 2006 under Baseball, Basketball, Canada, Football, Hockey, Sports

2006 NHL MVP is Joe Thornton from London, Ontario.

2006 NBA MVP is Steve Nash from Victoria, British Columbia.

2006 MLB American League MVP is Justin Morneau from New Westminster, British Columbia.

Let’s get Green Bay Packers kicker Jon Ryan from Regina, Saskatchewan voted in as an NFL MVP this year so that Canadians are MVPs in the 4 major North American professional sports leagues.

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fave albums of 2006

December 30, 2006 under Annual Fave Albums, Music

I thought that 2006 was stellar year for music. My list of favourite albums for this year is the longest one since I started posting my annual list 4 years ago. It’s interesting to note the genres represented in each of my lists. Where last year’s contained many subdued electronic albums, this year’s has plenty of loud and aggressive rock. I’ve also given the ‘album of the year’ distinction to two bands to share; both of which are veteran bands.

Here they are in alphabetical order:

CanadianAlexisonfireCrisis
Crisis finds Alexisonfire recalling the intensity of their self-titled debut, which is was somewhat absent on their last release, Watch Out. Crisis is a full-on fast-paced assault on your ears. You would think that the success of Dallas Green’s acoustic balladeering side project, City and Colour, would have influenced this album by introducing calmer moments, but (thankfully) that didn’t happen. Surprisingly, Dallas’ vocal duties haven’t increased because of the air play that City and Colour got. George still shreds his vocal chords, and Wade has more vocal performances than ever before. And if you still write off Alexisonfire as “that screaming band”, I got a lavender-scented pillow, Belle and Sebastian album and cup of chai tea for you.

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of DeadSo Divided
Reviews of So Divided have been mixed, and I’ll admit that it’s not immediately satisfying. But after repeated listens, it’s sinking in, and doesn’t leave me pining for the days when Trail of Dead sounded like blasting dynamite filtered through amplifiers. So Divided‘s subtleties shine through on “Stand In Silence”, “Naked Sun” and “Witch’s Web”. To add, I actually prefer Trail of Dead’s cover of GbV‘s “Gold Heart Mountain Top Queen Directory” to the original.

Built To SpillYou In Reverse
It took way too long for B2S to release a new album, and thank goodness they finally did. The 9-minute opener, “Goin’ Against Your Mind”, is a phenomenal way to kick off an album. you In Reverse is loaded with guitar mastery…long live the B2S extenda-jam.

The DecemberistsThe Crane Wife
Listening to the Decemberists conjures images of hip indie kids from Newfoundland who start a great band. And then I’m reminded that they’re actually from, of all places, Montana. The Crane Wife takes the Decemberists’ formula of prog rock mixed with sea shanties and applies it to a Japanese fairytale over the course of an entire album, and it works!

CanadianFinal FantasyHe Poos Clouds
When Owen Pallett isn’t providing strings to The Arcade Fire, he records as Final Fantasy. It’s hard to imagine beat-less violin-driven music actually rocking, but Pallett finds a way to make that a reality. He Poos Clounds is complete with references to Toronto real-estate heavyweights and video games; an unlikely winning combination.

The Hold SteadyBoys And Girls In America
The Hold Steady remind me of another band from Minnesota; The Replacements…and I love those ‘Mats. Swaggering indie rock with thought-provoking story telling is The Hold Steady’s forte. “Chillout Tent”, a love story involving a guy (played by Soul Asylum‘s Dave Pirner) and a gal (played by The Reputation‘s Elizabeth Elmore) who meet in the recovery tent at a music festival after pulling whiteys, is my standout favourite track.

IsisIn The Absence Of Truth
Texture. Lots ‘n’ lots of texture. I hate to use other bands to compare a band’s sound, but think Melvins + Black Sabbath + The Cure, and that’s where Isis is on In The Absence Of Truth. Sounds weave in and out of the mix and culminate in a loud and heavy burst of distorted guitars. Isis have introduced more subdued sounds and melodies into their repertoire and achieve excellent results.

MastodonBlood Mountain
When I listen to Blood Mountain (usually prior to playing hockey), I envision this huge craggy mountain where muscular cave dwellers drink from skulls. With loud, pounding sounds and quick-shifting time signatures, Mastodon are the new Rush.

MogwaiMr. Beast
I can never have one of these lists without a Mogwai album, it seems. Mr. Beast finds the band compressing their sound into 4-minute songs for quick consumption. There aren’t build-ups to climaxes. What we have are short bursts controlled noise like “Glasgow Mega Snake” and “Travel Is Dangerous”, which will make you want to knock down a building with your bare hands. And when the times comes for me to shuffle off this mortal coil, “Friend Of The Night” is the last song I’d want to hear.

MuseBlack Holes and Revelations
Big guitar and drums rock with a lot of epic drama regarding the end of the world and aliens. Muse have gone down this path before, but this time it’s super-sized. Muse even get a little bit sexy, as a change of pace, with “Supermassive Black Hole”.

PavementWowee Zowee: Sordid Sentinels Edition
Matador continues the tradition of reissuing Pavement albums complete with all B-sides, outtakes, rarities and live performances. Wowee Zowee was the last of great Pavement albums, and it starts to show. But I’d still pony up for similar reissues for Brighten The Corners and Terror Twilight, if Matador goes that route.

Pearl JamPearl Jam
This is by the far the best PJ album released in the last 10 years. When PJ experiments, they’re hit and miss (mostly miss). This self-titled release is a fine return to form.

Peeping TomPeeping Tom
Mike Patton (aka: Peeping Tom), has been quoting as saying that this album is his interpretation of modern pop music. With an array of collaborators like Dan The Automator, Kool Keith and Amon Tobin, this is definitely a pop album sonic-wise. It’s a stark contrast from the Mike Patton of Faith No More/Mr. Bungle/Fantômas/Tomahawk that we all know and love. “Mojo” is taylor-made for TRL on MTV. Yet, Mike still managed to surprise me when he managed to convince docile songbird Norah Jones to say ‘motherfucker’ on “Sucker”.

Red Hot Chili PeppersStadium Arcadium
By The Way, RHCP’s last release, was a snoozer. Actually, most of the Chili’s output recently has been pretty tame. Where’d the funk go? On Stadium Arcadium, it’s returned! Back in grade 8, Mike Fortin introduced me to the Uplift Mofo Party Plan and I was hooked; the raunchy mix of punk and funk had my 12 year-old ears hooked. Now Stadium Arcadium doesn’t exactly hark back to those days. Pussies are no longer partied on, and nobody needs to be knocked down. But the funk is back and John Frusciante puts on one hell of a show.

Silversun PickupsCarnavas
Love the fuzz. SSPU pick up where they left off on the Pikul EP. This is an extremely hummable album, easily capable of spawning lots of earworms.

CanadianSloanNever Hear The End Of It
At 30 tracks, it’s work to hear the end of Never Hear The End Of It. Stylistically, Sloan cover a lot of territory on this album; indie rock, ballads, punk and chamber pop. There are plenty of immediately catchy but gone-too-soon tracks reminiscent of Bee Thousand/Alien Lanes/Under The Bushes, Under The Stars era GbV.

SparklehorseDreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain
It’s good to have Mark Linkous releasing albums again. Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain is a contemplative album with many references to ghosts and pain; Sparklehorse staples.

Album Of The YearSonic YouthRather Ripped
Nobody could ever hope to record another Sister or Daydream Nation; not even Sonic Youth themselves. Toward the end of the last decade, I began to doubt that Sonic Youth could be interesting and relevant again. Murray Street and Sonic Nurse gave me hope and Rather Ripped is the crowning achievement of a trio of albums from this millennium that prove that the ol’ noise makers still have it. It has all of the trademark elements that make Sonic Youth one of the best bands of all time. Odd guitar tunings? Check. Feedback? Check. Melody? Check. Songs from Kim that are actually good? Check. Rather Ripped was a rather pleasant surprise.

Tapes ‘n TapesThe Loon
TnT wear their musical influences on their sleeves. With their sleeves covered in Pixies, Pavement, and Modest Mouse, TnT take the sounds from great bands and make it their own.

Tool10,000 Days
Complicated and always evolving, Tool have done it again. The one-two punch of “Lost Keys (Blame Hoffman)” and “Rosetta Stoned”, which could either be about alien abduction or acid trip recounts or a combination of both, is one of my favourite parts of the album.

CanadianThe Tragically HipWorld Container
The Hip, the best of the accessible rock bands that you’ve never heard if you live outside of Canada, prove that they still have plenty of fight left in them. Introducing a few new nuances like the highhat trickery on “The Lonely End Of The Rink” that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Bloc Party album, World Container is the still The Hip that your Canadian heart knows and loves, but with a new bag of tricks.

TV On The RadioReturn To Cookie Mountain
Skip “I Was A Lover” and you got yourself a brilliant album. The combination of layered vocals and instrumentation make for a very dense album. There are sounds everywhere; way more subtle and not-so-subtle textures than there were on Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes. Turn the corner nonchalantly, and you’ll be poked with an unfamiliar sound in the eye. This album is best experienced with headphones.

Album Of The YearYo La TengoI Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass
I love Yo La Tengo; I really do. They’ve covered everything from folk to blues to noise rock to electro-drone to jazz. Their two most recent albums, And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out and Summer Sun, are hushed and gentle. To me, that’s fine in small doses, so I was pleased to hear that I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass, came back to their all-over-the-map-in-a-single-album ways. Kicking off the album with 10 minutes of noise and guitar on “Pass The Hatchet, I Think I’m Good Kind”, put my mind at ease. The next 14 tracks are a wild ride that cover a lot of territory in much the same way that I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One did, which is welcome to my ears.

Some other notable albums that didn’t quite make my list were The Flaming LipsAt War With The Mystics, Pretty Girls Make GravesElan Vital , Snow Patrol‘s Eyes Open and Thom Yorke‘s Eraser. Of course, there a many other good albums released this year that I haven’t had a chance to listen to, yet. So feel free to add to my list, if I’ve missed any.

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merry christmas

December 25, 2006 under Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone!

This year is a little different for me. It’s the first time I’ve spent it home in Kitchener. Usually I’ve been in Timmins or Crystal Falls. Since my mom passed away earlier this year, my dad shouldn’t be alone for the holidays so I’ve opted to stay here while Dena is visiting family in Crystal Falls. As such, I’m in our new (and mostly empty) home with our two cats.

I’ll give you all the gift that I give each year around this time; my annual list of my favourite albums released in the last year. Hold on, it’s on the way πŸ™‚

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the old apartment

December 18, 2006 under Life

Today is the last day that Dena and I will be renters. As of this morning, we’ll be home owners, and should be totally moved into our house by day’s end tomorrow.

Since the age of 18, I’ve lived in dorms, a student townhouse and our current apartment. Will I miss our apartment which is where we’ve been for the past 5+ years? Hell no, and here’s why:

  • Waiting on a landlord to fix anything sucks. We’ve gone a combined total of 16 days without hot water, requiring a total of two replacement hot water heaters. Apparently showering and doing dishes isn’t all that important in the eye’s of TransGlobe.
  • Mould. Our building’s air ducts are covered in the stuff. It finds its way to our outside walls. Thank goodness for Lysol wipes.
  • The gag-inducing aromatic combination of dirty socks, urinal cakes, weed, baby shit and ashtray in the building’s halls is something you’d think you get used to. But you don’t.
  • Parking lots suck. I will enjoy our new driveway and garage in that I’ll never have to fight for a parking spot again. And don’t get me started on waking up to find weird “spills” on our car and beer bottles next to our tires.
  • Sharing walls means that we share more than that. When the people across the hall have a party, we hear it clear as a bell…and it sounds like the party is in their bathroom. A couple of years ago, a woman and her son (maybe 10 years old) lived in the apartment directly below ours. Dena and I really didn’t need alarm clocks, because every morning at around 6:30AM, they’d be screaming at the tops of their lungs at each other. What they were actually saying to each other was undecipherable, but neither were obviously pleased with the other….every day! When we passed them in the stairwell, they both had a look of “help me” on their faces. Weird.
  • Communal laundry rooms are gross. You’d think that the rinse cycle would wash away any nastiness that other tenants manage to get on their clothes, but this isn’t always the case and it’s often stuck to the bottom of the washer. I also won’t miss having to horde loonies and quarters in order to do laundry.
  • The other tenants…wow! I must admit, our apartment isn’t fancy downtown loft or condo. When I found it, I was 23 years-old with $75 in my chequing account and had just moved to Kitchener to start my first job out of university. It’s depressing to think that it became “home” for the past 5+ years. In that time, we managed to get to know nobody else in the building. Most people are completely unfriendly. There is a guy on our floor that Dena and I know only as “Moosehead”; we still don’t know his name. We christened him “Moosehead” when we first noticed that he always had a two-four of Moosehead under his arm every time we saw him. He’s become cost-conscious lately, as we now regularly see him with cases of Bohemian, Lakeport and Lucky instead. He, however, is the only person in those 5+ years that’s friendly and says “hi” to us.

Dena and I are totally looking forward to home ownership.

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so now we're not getting the penguins?

December 16, 2006 under Hockey, NHL, Penguins, RIM

CBC’s reporting that Jim Balsilie has withdrawn his offer to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins. I guess we’re not getting a team here now πŸ™

It appears that the reason that Balsillie walked away from the purchase of the Penguins is because of über-sucky-commissioner Gary Bettman‘s crazy mandates:

Reports suggest part of the reason Balsillie walked away from the sale was his displeasure with league’s mandate to keep the team in Pittsburgh as part of the agreement.

There had been speculation that Balsillie, 45, could try to move the franchise to Hamilton, which is close to his home and RIM’s head office in Waterloo, Ont., if a new arena in Pittsburgh isn’t built.

So Mr. Bettman would prefer to see a team full of young stars, like Sid Crosby, wallow in uncertainty because the city of Pittsburg’s hopes of keeping the Penguins hinges on whether the state government will allow a casino to be built or not.

SARACSM WARNING!
In the event that the Penguins finally have to leave Pittsbugh, I bet good ol’ Gary would love to move the team to hockey-hungry cities like Las Vegas, Kansas City or Oklahoma City. That would be frickin’ brilliant! Hey, it’s working in Phoenix, Florida and Atlanta. And nobody would dare go watch NHL games in Winnipeg and Quebec City anyway.
END SARCASM WARNING!

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the reason for the season

December 15, 2006 under Christmas, political correctness

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed something. More people have said “Merry Christmas” to me lately, than they have in the past few years. I’ve heard it at the bank, car dealership, and in stores. “Happy Holidays” seems to have fallen out of fashion this year. I wonder what the cause is: Middle Eastern tensions, the fact that this guy runs the show, people are tired of political correctness?

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trading in skype for a new gizmo

December 13, 2006 under Internet, VoIP

Skype will charge for SkypeOut calls as of the start of 2007. It’s a shame that they decided to charge for it now, since I liked not having a long distance plan, but it was fairly obvious that it was going to happen. Even so, their rate of $30/year is still cheaper than most long distance plans from traditional telcos.

Fear not – there are free alternatives. There’s Jajah, although when we tried it, the sound quality was abysmal. I’m not sure if it was the connection or the service itself. VoipBuster is another one, but its name puts me off, I’ve heard little about it at this point, and I’m a bit sceptical. However, the open-source Gizmo will likely be the replacement that I’ll go with. So if I ask you to sign up for a free Gizmo account, try not to act surprised πŸ˜‰

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here's ten dollars worth of chips. you may now kiss the bride

December 11, 2006 under Life

Congratulations to this guy:

Pat

And this gal:

Pat

Pat proposed to Jen and she said “yes”. Jen, you brave brave soul πŸ˜‰ This all happened a few months ago, but neither have blogged about it. Jen was the first to announce it all Internet-like, several days after the fact. Pat let the Web know 73 days later. So I don’t feel bad posting bloggy felicitations many moons after the hitchin’ was proposed πŸ™‚

Who would’ve thought that a nice young lady hailing from Fort McMurray, Alberta who has a rabid dislike for the misspelling of her first name with an extra ‘n’, would fall for a well-read yet forever-sniffling guy from Timmins? Not I, at first blush πŸ™‚ But after witnessing their interaction over the past couple of years, it’s obviously meant-to-be. It takes a different kind of person to comprehend Pat von Patty-Patty-Pat de la Byck. There are a few of us dudes who do, but “null” couldn’t even begin to describe of the odds of a marriage between him and one of us happening. Ummm, maybe almost null. Jen, however, is also one of the world’s few to decipher Pat’s wavelengths….and she has girl parts! It’s no wonder that she nabbed him πŸ™‚

At this point, somebody who’s already married usually gives the couple some advice about marriage that’s peppered with a smidgen of humour. In the case of the groom-to-be, it’s usually his father who imparts hard-won experience upon him. But since Dadoo (aka: Pat’s dad – aka: Paul Byck – aka: the guy who falsely claims that I drink all of his beer) doesn’t have a blog and I do, I’ll toss in my ignoble two cents on the Interweb πŸ™‚

Marriage is like an avocado; tough exterior, tasty innards, toxic to some species, and is the key ingredient in guacamole. Take from that what you will. Everybody’s going to tell you something profound or enlightening about marriage that’s supposed to stick to your ribs so that you carry it with you for the rest of your life:

Nothing changes once you’re married.

Everything changes once you’re married.

Continue to change your underwear daily once you’re married.

That last one about the underwear is definitely one to remember. And keep up with the steady sexin’…you just gotsta do that πŸ˜€ Cheers!

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psiphon through the great firewall of china

December 4, 2006 under China, Internet

To follow up something that I posted last week, there’s a project going on at the U of T, called Psiphon. It’s goal is to allow those who live in countries in which the government restricts Internet access, unfettered rights to the Web. From what I can tell, Psiphon provides proxy access to the Web via a model similar to something like Tor where the users share bandwidth. So if you’re running the Psiphon client, you act as a node on the Psiphon network. As such, your computer will fetch data from a site that is blocked in China, such as Slashdot, and send it to someone making the request in China. This means that it could be detected by someone like the Chinese government, but the data blends in with the rest of Internet traffic so as not to stand-out. This one will be interesting to watch.

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the big three-oh well

December 1, 2006 under Birthday, Life

As of 6:36PM Eastern Time, I’ll have existed for:

3/10 of a century or
3 decades or
30 years or
360 months or
1,565 weeks or
10,957 days or
15,778,463 minutes or
946,707,779 seconds or
946,707,779,241 milliseconds or
9.46707779 Γƒβ€” 1017 nanoseconds.

Some people greet the day that their life odometer rolls over to 30 years with anguish, depression, joy, borderline alcoholism or a combination of the aforementioned. Personally, I’ve addressed this day with one big “meh”. I’ve never been one who’s big into celebrating milestones, events or accomplishments, and I see no reason to change that. If I cure cancer or create something that benefits many people’s lives somehow, then I’ll probably have something worthy of a massive shindig. I also don’t see it as a day that I should dread, because what is there worth dreading? It’s not lost youth, because that’s ongoing always (and as, Dena says, I dress like I’m a teenager). It’s not the inevitability of giving-up-the-ghost, since that can happen any time. So I see turning 30 as no big deal.

If you’ve wished me well for my birthday, cool. If you haven’t because you weren’t aware, forgot or didn’t bother, that’s cool too.

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