My favourite songs of the year so far (II)

Back in April I listed my six favourite songs of the year so far:

  • neko case . “middle cyclone”
  • the von bondies . “chancer”
  • dan auerbach . “heartbroken, in disrepair”
  • john frusciante . “unreachable”
  • the heartless bastards . “be so happy”
  • and you will know us by the trail of dead . “ascending”

Now, a couple of months later, I have a few more for you. If you haven’t heard these, copy and paste them into your favourite music retrieval implement.

  • ume . “the conductor”
  • the thermals . “when i died”
  • william elliott whitmore . “old devils”
  • the yeah yeah yeahs . “heads will roll”
  • …and you will know us by the trail of dead . “fields of coal”
  • japandroids . “heart sweats”

The only unknown right now is whether Grizzly Bear is going to add to this list. Did I miss anything else?

I wonder how many hits I'd get with Naked Lunch, Ethan Frome and Everybody Poops?

From the Quill & Quire’s blog: bookseller Borders UK is getting into the matchmaking business.

Borders U.K. is hoping that lovelorn literary singles will gravitate to its site to connect with other like-minded readers for some off-the-page encounters. The Bookseller is reporting that Borders’ new online dating service, optimistically dubbed “Happily Ever After,” will successfully match “people who share similar interests and hobbies.”

I think it’s not a bad idea. Things like books and movies and music are nice things to have in common with a romantic partner, and might even be knockout criteria for some. Why not just start from there?

How long before Amazon gets into this? “Hello Dan. We have new recommendations for you. Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk, Post-Nothing by The Japandroids and Kate, a brunette from Ottawa who likes Michael Mann films and Wii Sports. Not Dan? Click here.”

The money pit

The Economist‘s most recent daily chart surprised me. From the blurb accompanying the chart: “Comparisons with other rich countries and within the United States show that its [health-care] system is not only growing at an unsustainable pace, but also provides questionable value for money and dubious medical care.”

This runs counter to what I’d always assumed: that the US federal government spent very little on health care, and that the private consumer spent a great deal. Certainly American citizens pay an enormous amount per person, but their federal funds spent per capita is still the highest in the world, odd considering America is notorious for not having socialized medicine. Why is this?

I don’t know the answer, obviously, but I suspect that treating a necessity of life — medical care — as a for-profit enterprise has led to exorbitant prices. Then, if the government increases federal spending to support the poor, injured veterans and so on, they’re throwing good money after bad.

Does a socialized system help prevent that? Maybe. It’s harder to profit from health-care in, say, Canada or the UK than in the US. But I can see why some Americans are so opposed to more federal dollars going into health-care. If it really is good money after bad, then they have reason to oppose spending more tax dollars on it. But the graph above just shows me even proponents of American health-care reform should be opposed to putting more money into the current system.

The reform being discussed isn’t enough. As long as saving lives is a for-profit concern, Americans won’t get their money’s worth.

You knew it was him

Maclean’s (who I’ve been going to a lot lately) reviews the new book about John Cazale, and makes it sound very interesting. I might pick it…

Wait, who?

This guy. The guy who only acted in five films, all five of which are considered to be among the best American cinema ever made: The Godfather, The Godfather II, The Conversation, Dog Day Afternoon and The Deer Hunter.

More than three decades after his death, this unsung talent is now being hailed as one of the most brilliant and influential actors of his generation. Those doing the hailing include Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Gene Hackman and Meryl Streep, who all worked with Cazale. Their opinion is seconded by younger actors who never knew him but cite him as a crucial influence, notably Philip Seymour Hoffman, Steve Buscemi and Sam Rockwell. These testimonials are part of a remarkable new HBO documentary titled I Knew It Was You, which is showing this week as part of the Worldwide Short Film Festival in Toronto.

I noticed his impressive credentials a couple of years ago, but I didn’t grasp the level of respect Cazale still commands among the top actors of his generation.

I feel ashamed that I haven’t seen The Conversation, even though it’s by far the least well known of the five on that list. If you haven’t seen one of the other four, you should hang your head.

"I tend to think of myself as a one-man wolf pack."

Couple of movies I forget to tell you about:

The Hangover (imdb | rotten tomatoes) was funny. Not smart funny…altogether dumb funny, really. Occasionally over-the-top funny and awkward funny too. But funny nonetheless, and an enjoyable two hours. I’m glad to see Ed Helms get a chance to do something other than Andy Bernard, but I’m worried that Zach Galifianakis is the second (bearded) coming of Chris Farley. I could do without that.

At the other end of the funny scale was Gran Torino (imdb | rotten tomatoes), in which Clint Eastwood rattles off every racist slur and every angry-old-vet cliche possible. All in all I thought the movie was okay, but I’m torn on the decision to use non-actors for the secondary characters. It gave an air of legitimacy to use real kids we’ve never seen before, rather than actors, but it also meant that they were utterly incapable of acting. Better than I could do, sure, but still bad enough to be distracting and pull my brain out of the scenes. Still, worth watching.

Millennials = goddamn phonies

Spotted at Maclean’s: a NY Times article about today’s teens’ reaction to Catcher In The Rye.

“The Catcher in the Rye,” published in 1951, is still a staple of the high school curriculum, beloved by many teachers who read and reread it in their own youth. The trouble is today’s teenagers. Teachers say young readers just don’t like Holden as much as they used to. What once seemed like courageous truth-telling now strikes many of them as “weird,” “whiny” and “immature.”

Julie Johnson, who taught Mr. Salinger’s novel over three decades at New Trier High School in Winnetka, Ill., cited similar reactions. “Holden’s passivity is especially galling and perplexing to many present-day students,” she wrote in an e-mail message. “In general, they do not have much sympathy for alienated antiheroes; they are more focused on distinguishing themselves in society as it is presently constituted than in trying to change it.”

Amen, today’s teenagers. I didn’t identify with Caufield when I read the book, even though I felt desperately as if I was supposed to. I just wanted to punch him.

Ohmigod, no!! Not the Pusateri's account! For the love of all that's holy! NOT THE PUSATERI'S ACCOUNT!!!!1!

Two and a half years ago I saw a documentary called Jesus Camp about kids raised by evangelicals and attending religious summer camps where they spoke in tongues and so on. I was impressed by how impartial the filmmakers remained throughout, always leaving the viewer free to interpret what they saw. The result was a film that I, and the entirety of the Toronto-based documentary-going crowd, found both hilarious and horrifying. Audiences in evangelical territories, like the American Midwest, didn’t have an adverse reaction to it…in fact, the filmmakers explained, audiences there loved it. It takes skill for an artist to tell the truth plainly enough that the subjects don’t realize the rest of the world will be aghast when it sees the light of day.

It was this same impressive brand of fine line-walking that graced the cover story of this month’s Toronto Life magazine, written by Sonia Verma. The abstract:

“The money’s running out and they must choose: pull the kids out of private school or fire the gardener; pawn the silver or close the Pusateri’s account; cancel the club memberships or default on the cottage. An inside report on the sacrifices of the nouveau poor”

I’m angry at myself for throwing out my paper copy since TL won’t post most of their magazine content online (Dear editors: the 21st century. Please hear of it.) and I can’t remember the very best quotes, but suffice it to say I was barking with laughter after the Rosedale matron whined about the hardship of having to hide her full Holt Renfrew shopping bags for fear of showing up her friends and neighbours. Not to mention the lady who fretted about irritating her personal shopper when she asked for a discount on a dress that cost thousands of dollars.

The beauty is that this little circle of wealthy, oblivious nimrods actually seem to expect sympathy — or at least empathy — and probably have no idea that 99% of those who read the magazine laughed themselves silly, giving thanks for once that they themselves aren’t rich enough to become this disconnected from reality.

Soon, my pretties. Soon.

I’m depressed.

One year ago today Nellie and I were in the Rockies, hiking the Iceline trail (from which we took the picture you see up there) and eating at Truffle Pigs and preparing to head up to Lake O’Hara. I get heartsick every time I think about that trip, and how I’m over 3,000 km away. I’m very much looking forward to our trip to France this fall, but god I wish I could be back in BC right now.

More: all my posts from that trip, and the rest of the pictures.

A rite of passage in my left thigh

There are certain events in a man’s life which make him feel more like a man. Today I experienced one of those.

Today I suffered a mild groin pull, and I became more of a man. Specifically I became more of an old man, as I’m sort of hobbling around now and look as if I need a cane.

Since none of you were there when it happened, here’s a official story I’m giving people on it: I suffered the injury rescuing a kitten from a drainpipe while also kicking a game-winning field goal.

Since there're three of them, they can probably spare one while he learns some new recipes

Nothing much to do on this shitty wet morning other than tell everyone about the latest beer/food adventure: The 3 Brewers. A French brewpub chain (which is actually named Les 3 Brasseurs…I guess they registered under a new name in Ontario) which also has a presence in Montreal, they just opened a new location at Yonge & Dundas earlier this week. Since Y&D is almost entirely devoid of worthy places to eat we thought we’d give it a try. We were both a little wiped from the week so we were looking for low-key anyway.

The beer was quite good. It tastes fresh, as it’s brewed in-house and unpasteurized. We had the wheat to start, and both enjoyed it. I got a sampler next, and Nellie settled on the red. I thought the red was decent (I normally have no time for reds/ambers), the blond was good and the brown seemed ok…a little on the heavy side, but it might’ve just felt that way because I was full. Full of what, you ask? A crap pulled pork sandwich, that’s what. It’s advertised as coming with onions, but in fact the onions were mixed in with the meat and it turned out to be more onion than pork. Disappointing. The fries were wooden, but I don’t really eat fries anyway. Nellie got the poutine, even though she wasn’t that hungry; not really sure what the verdict was there.

I liked the decor at first — very clean, wooden beams, exposed brick, huge kettles in the middle of the space, stretched across three floors — but it does feel a little too scrubbed. Clean I have no problem with, mind you; it just seemed…I dunno, mass-produced. Nellie described it as Milestones made to look like a pub, which felt about right. Oh, and the music was both bad (“Scrubs” by TLC? Really?) and really loud, so a definite downside. I think that, if we’re to return, it’ll be for drinks on the main floor: big open windows facing the sidewalk, sane music level and fresh beer.

The Great Canadian Pubs blog has a more thorough review and video of the inside. They also had a peek inside a new pub which opened just around the corner a few days later, The Queen And Beaver Public House. Toronto Life took a look as well. It sounds like the complete opposite of The 3 Brewers. Looking forward to it.