Dance Song ’97

Pitchfork’s focus on the 20th anniversary of OK Computer a few weeks ago got me thinking: there were a ton of great albums made in 1997.

I came to them late — I’d just moved to Toronto that year and was far from current with this stuff — but once I found them, they took root. These albums pretty heavily in my rotation even today, and would probably all show up on my list of favourite albums of all time.

  • The Dandy Warhols . Come Down
  • Bob Dylan . Time Out Of Mind
  • Mogwai . Young Team
  • Neutral Milk Hotel . In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
  • Sleater-Kinney . Dig Me Out

To say nothing of Spiritualized‘s Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space, The RheostaticsDouble Live, or Bardo Pond‘s Lapsed. Man. What a year.

"Attention…Mon Ami…Fa-Lala-Lala-La-La"

Last night, following Montreal’s disappointing game 5 overtime loss to Boston — which I got to experience in Kilgour’s, probably the only Montreal Canadiens fan bar in Toronto — my buddy Joe and I strolled down the block to see Godspeed You! Black Emperor at Lee’s Palace. GY!BE had been on hiatus since 2003, so when these tickets went on sale last fall we snapped them up.

We weren’t worried about staying through the entire hockey game, including one and a half overtime periods, because we knew very well they wouldn’t hit the stage until 11:30 or so. As it turns out they began taking the stage around 11:45 and began playing at about 11:50. By the way: it takes them five minutes to take the stage because there are nine of them, and they came on a few at a time and began playing their instruments. That tuning and tweaking turned into “Hope Drones” before drifting, some fifteen minutes later, into “Gathering Storm”, the best part of their best song from their best album and one of my favourite songs of all time (honorable mention). I could have left right after that and felt like I got my money’s worth.

But they kept going, obviously, playing seven more songs over the next couple of hours (their songs tend to be in the 15-20 minute range, and all instrumental, with black and white film footage looped behind them) from F#A#∞ and Slow Riot For New Zer0 Canada and more from Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven and one more song (“Albanian”) that apparently is only ever played live. Nothing from their last album Yanqui U.X.O. though, which was disappointing…they’d played “Rockets Fall on Rocket Falls”, their second-best song, the night before.

Just after 2AM they wrapped up, and I walked out feeling a little underwhelmed. I’m glad I saw it — this may be my last chance as they’re obviously pretty mercurial — but it just didn’t feel like as big an experience as I’d hoped for. Maybe it was being at the back, kind of blocked (distracted?) by the film projectors. Maybe it was being too near the bar and all the assholes who feel entitled to yell inanities to each other that could surely wait until they’re outside. Maybe it was that my mind kept making the obvious comparison to Mogwai, who thumps me mercilessly every time I see them, unlike last night’s show.

Like I said, I’m glad I went. I guess I was just hoping for more of a storm.

The playlist, according to the internets:

  • “Hope Drone”
  • “Gathering Storm”
  • “Monheim”
  • “Albanian”
  • “Chart #3”
  • “World Police and Friendly Fire”
  • “Dead Metheny”
  • “Moya”
  • “Blaise Bailey Finnegan III”

Wake Up And Go Beserk

It’s been nearly seven years since I last saw Mogwai live. Their gig that night in 2002 was one of the most ferocious I’d ever seen, or have seen since. I’d been warned about the volume, but in tiny Lee’s Palace there was nowhere to hide, and my friend Mike and I bore the brunt. I loved it, though, and was excited to see them again night after missing them the last couple of times around. In fact, seeing them last fall was supposed to be a celebration of finishing the MBA, of returning to seeing the occasional gig. They just made me wait a little longer is all. Silly inconsiderate Martin had pacemaker problems so they had to postpone the tour. That’s so like him.

And so, on Monday, Joe and I staked out a spot near the front of the Phoenix’s balcony just minutes before opener the Twilight Sad began their set. A funny thing happened: I noticed this guy pulling on the door out to the little catwalk along the Phoenix’s upper wall, as if he planned to get out there to take in the show. Padlocked; foiled. The guy turns to walk away and as I see his face I realize…that’s Stuart Braithwaite. By the time I processed that he’d spun off to find another vantage point. Weird.

Anyway, the Twilight Sad was good. Solid. I shall sample more of their stuff, which I suppose is the point of the opening slot, so well done lads. I laughed to Joe that, after their set, I looked down to the main floor and saw a girl covering her ears and (presumably) complaining to her boyfriend that it was too loud. I felt bad for her. It certainly wasn’t to get any quieter from there on. Fifteen minutes later Mogwai emerged to drive her from the building, pleading for her life. Or so I imagined.

A few songs in it was clear that this would be a very different Mogwai than I’d seen before. Thankfully, of course; who wants to see the same show again? Their music has gained more depth and nuance, and I was happy to see that it translated well to the stage, perhaps was even augmented by it. The additional textures of Barry Burns’ keyboards and (highly effects-ridden) vocals gave the first half of the night a mellower feel than I think most people expected. Stuart even broke out the soft words of “Cody” to much applause. They were covering a lot of ground too; by the end of the night they’d have played songs from eight different albums, by my count. But in the final half of the show, they tightened it up and started throwing serious punches.

They hit us with “You Don’t Know Jesus” and “Auto Rock”, gave us a breather with “Thank You Space Expert” and launched the perfect segue: “Hunted By A Freak”. I’ve always found that song ominous — maybe it’s because I can’t understand the vocals, or because I’ve seen the highly disturbing video — but until tonight I don’t think I ever fully grasped what a brilliant, beautiful song that is. Really. Still, that feeling of impending danger that comes with it was accurate: they bled straight from that song into a version of “Mogwai Fear Satan” that had everyone gleefully reeling, and then laid the crunch of “Glasgow Mega-Snake” on us to close out the set.

I had a hunch about what the encore might be — I knew they’d played “Like Herod” and “Batcat” in Montreal the night before, and they’d tended to alternate — so I was more than happy when they began playing “My Father My King”. It’s one of my 50 favourite songs of all time, and it destroyed the last time I saw them. I settled in. I prepared. I tried to keep my hopes from getting too high, but needn’t have bothered. This was better than last time, better than I’ve heard it played live before. It declined, dissolved and, as the band left the stage, descended into punishing feedback, just to remind us that nuance and maturity or no, they were still the boss of us.

After so many years of loving their music I think it’s safe to say that they’re my favourite band, even if they do try to kill me through my ears. Actually, I exaggerate: even though my ears were ringing when I got home that night, when I woke up six hours later my hearing was fine. I guess the much larger space of the Phoenix spared me from 2002’s result, when it took more than two days for my hearing to return to normal. I was almost disappointed.

And thus, I was awakened from my long gig slumber. Have I mentioned that I prefer a loud alarm clock?



  1. I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead
  2. Killing All The Flies
  3. Travel Is Dangerous
  4. Scotland’s Shame
  5. Small Children In The Background
  6. Cody
  7. You Don’t Know Jesus
  8. Auto Rock
  9. Thank You Space Expert
  10. Hunted By A Freak
  11. Mogwai Fear Satan
  12. Glasgow Megasnake
  13. My Father My King (encore)

Balancing the scales of my life. And the ones under my fat ass.

Another 3 mile run this morning. Two 3-mile runs in less than 12 hours, after an absence of god knows how many weeks, has made my legs a little sore, but nothing I can’t handle. I don’t need to do much for the rest of the night, aside from walk to The Phoenix to see Mogwai. That’s tonight; tomorrow is another Hot Docs screening, followed by yet another on Thursday. Busy week, and I don’t think I’ll be seeing much of home.

It should  be a good test for me, actually. Clearly I need to try a new pattern since the current one is leaving me, well, fat. I am now 45 pounds overweight, and the heaviest I’ve been since…let’s see, since the 23rd of forever. The pattern’s a familar one, harking back to my Delano days when my weight last peaked: work crazy hours, go home, eat something terrible, get up early the next day, repeat. The increase in working hours gets the better of me, as I lose both the energy for exercise and the patience to eat something healthy. If it were happening for one or two days at a time, that would be one thing, but I’ve just accepted the fact that a 12-hour work day is now the norm.

So what happens to the rest of that day? If you take away boring crap like getting ready for work, commuting, taking out recycling, blah blah blah that still leaves about 9.5 hours. I sleep about 6.5 hours per night, so I have 3 left to play with. So that becomes the crucial eighth of a day in which to get shit done, and therein lies my conundrum. Here’s what’s left to do in the day:

  1. Eat
  2. Watch TV
  3. Read
  4. Blog
  5. Exercise

Those things are in approximate order of priority. Now, before you accuse me of being a shit husband, I do spend time with my wife, but Nellie’s hours are just as bad as mine (if not worse) so it’s not as if she’s sitting at home on the couch at 5:15, sighing and lonely. The first two items on the list are spent together. They are usually also combined into one exercise, sadly.

Why that priority? Well, eating is obvious, though my eating habits aren’t the best when time gets tight. But one thing at a time. Watching TV isn’t a real priority, except that it’s one of the few things I get to share with my wife, and the few shows that I watch I really like and if I don’t watch them that night it’s unlikely I’ll be able to catch up later. The PVR helps, but I still watch the same amount of TV in a given week, so it’s moot. Anyway, I watch maybe 2-3 hours a week, so TV’s only eating into about 30 minutes a day.

The next three are the root of the problem. See, I have this obsessive need to keep up to date with my interests. And I have a lot of them. According to Google Reader I scan about 500 news items each day from my 200+ news feeds. Throw in a few daily-read sites, the 85 people I follow on Twitter, and the omnipresent books and magazines, I spend a lot of time consuming information. I like to do this. I feel compelled to do this. I have news feed categories for books, economics, entertainment, friends, humour, movies, music, news, politics, opinion, photoblogs, sports, tech, toronto, travel and TV, and I like knowing about all of those things. But you can imagine what happens: by the time I finish reading this stuff, and then blogging about something…that’s it. I’m done.

So I’m faced with a trade-off: exercise for an hour a day, but read less or stop blogging. Alternatively I could find a job that requires less hours, but I don’t see that happening. I like my job and don’t think I’d be happy unless I was in a job like this one, so…here I am. I’m back to eating into the obvious time sink: information consumption. If it means spending as much time exercising my body as I do exercising my mind, that’s probably not a bad thing. But feeling like I’m getting dumber…that’s not going to be a good feeling for me.

So back to why this week is a good test: if I make sure to run each morning, my commitments during the week (which I usually keep free due to the afore-mentioned compulsion) will keep me away from the computer at night and I’ll see whether hitting the ‘Mark All Read’ button on thousands of news items makes me break into a steady twitch.

Now if somebody could rig up a way for me to attach a netbook to the front of a treadmill and let me click my way through my feeds, then I’d have somethin’…

First day of Hot Docs

We saw two Hot Docs screenings today: Orgasm Inc. (hot docs) and Carmen Meets Borat (hot docs).

Orgasm Inc. turned out to be more interesting than I expected. I guess I’d forgotten what it was about between when I selected it and when I watched it today. The overriding theme of this year’s festival seems to be the economy, and money in general, and that was the angle that came out here.

Here’s the basic synopsis: Viagra is introduced and makes a bazillion dollars for Pfizer. Pharma companies realize they’re only reaching half the population, though, so the hunt for so-called female Viagra begins. Now realizing that they need to create demand for this, they use questionable research/statistical methods to trumpet the fact that 43% of American women have some kind of sexual dysfunction, and thus the clinical term Female Sexual Dysfunction is born. Now American women think there’s something wrong with them, and hucksters are telling them it can be fixed with a pill. Of course, no one’s profiting too much yet because the pills keep failing placebo tests, and the FDA rejected Procter & Gamble’s attempt. But don’t worry, all you useless malfunctioning women, soon there’ll be a $10 pill for you.

OK, moving on before I get too mad. In short, the content of the documentary was excellent, but the execution — the film itself — was sloppy and felt amateurish. I gave it a 3/5.

Carmen Meets Borat was much lighter (although Orgasm Inc. did have several laughs), showing life in what must surely be the most awful village in all of Europe: Glod, Romania. It’s where the opening scenes of Borat were filmed, passed off as Kazakhstan, and the villagers weren’t in on the jokes. They were, understandably, annoyed. But the main focus of the documentary is a girl named Carmen, and the changes she and her family went through at the same time as — and occasionally because of — Borat. Then the world’s slimiest lawyers show up and it does downhill. Anyway, it was an example of a documentary that covers a fairly insignificant topic, but covers it very well, and benefits from a little luck. I gave it 4/5.

Nothing tomorrow; I’ll be at work anyway. Also, I have two tickets to a screening of Reporter at 9:30 on Monday night at the Isabel Bader theatre if anyone would like them, free of charge. I’ll be at a Mogwai concert.

Including the phone call where they pretend the band has broken up?

I’m now more than 90% of the way through my MBA program. To tell you the truth I haven’t been thinking about it much lately. I haven’t worked on it — no reading, no writing, no ‘rithmetic-ing — for about a month, but I have an assignment due six days from now, so I think I know where my weekend is headed.


Man, would I love to go to Summercase in Spain this July. I have no desire to see an outdoor music festival, but Sweet Screaming Jesus would I ever love to see Mogwai play the entire Young Team album live.


This Richard Florida blog post contains three things that shock me:

  1. there are 17 large American urban school systems which have an expected high school graduation rate of below 50%;
  2. the average for the fifty largest American cities is 51.8%;
  3. the Detroit city school district — worst in the country — projects that less than one student in four will graduate.

Toronto, by comparison, runs about 75%.

[tags]mba, mogwai, young team, summercase, richard florida, american school system[/tags]

Villa Del Refugio

Turns out I have 1,150 pages of marketing to read by the end of April. Not counting Fridays (which I refuse to sacrifice to school) and vacation days (but including holidays), and assuming I only take five days to complete each of the four assignments I’ll have to read about 25 pages a day, every day, between now and May 3.

199 days to go. Must…warp…time…with…power…of…mind…guh.


I just listened to the self-titled album by This Will Destroy You. It’s like Mogwai + Explosions In The Sky…which some would say already sound alike, but nuts to them/some. It’s the post-rock social event of the season. Thanks to Jeph Jacques for the tip.

[tags]mba, marketing, this will destroy you, mogwai, explosions in the sky[/tags]

Starter this, you GoDork

I had my eyes checked today for the first time since I was…I don’t know, maybe 12? I’d probably have to ask my mother.

Anyway, it turns out my eyes are still primo quality. I did all the little tests and he told me that, barring any accidents, my vision should be fine for at least another ten years. I was actually a tiny bit surprised; I figured that 28 years of looking at computer screens had probably taken a toll on my eyes. Then again, neither of my brothers wear glasses, and they’re both older than me. I guess we should thank our parents for making us eat all those carrots as a kid…


Some music-related goodies for you:

  • Download this Rebekah Higgs song. It’s the catchiest thing I’ve heard in weeks. Oh, and…girlfriend du jour. [via Chromewaves]
  • For a while now Carrie Brownstein, of the late lamented Sleater-Kinney (one of the very few great rock bands to go out at their peak) has been blogging for NPR. It’s been a good read so far. She even made with the funny today. Check out the blog.
  • Download this Mogwai cover of The Pixies’ “Gouge Away”. It’s about six different kinds of good. There’s just something sublimely menacing about Black Francis lyrics sung with a Glaswegian accent. [via Stereogum]


The Toronto Star threw together a very sloppy piece today about the condo boom. The piece is subtitled “As the cost of homes skyrocket, more prospective homebuyers are giving up dreams of bungalows with white picket fences and are seeking alternatives,” but nothing in the piece supports this notion. There are tons of stats about how many condos are being sold, but apart from two anecdotal stories there’s no research to suggest this is why people are buying condos.

I own a condo. I know other people who own condos. I’ve never, ever spoken to someone who really wanted a house but just couldn’t afford one and, in desperation, bought a condo instead. I’m sure lots of people want to own a house and still be downtown, but when that doesn’t work out they don’t sulk and buy a condo. They move to Whitby. The condo owners I know bought one because they want to be downtown. They want ten minutes on the subway instead of 90 minutes on the 401. They don’t want to shovel walks and prune dead branches. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with living way out there (though it’s clearly not for me); the people who really want a house are willing to do it, and good on them. It’s exactly my point.

Condos aren’t low-priced substitutes for expensive houses. The suburbs are. Unfortunately the Star perpetuated that myth without backing it up, which means I’ll have to put up with the occasional condescending remark from a suburbanite (e.g., “Oh, well, everybody needs a starter home!”) when I mention I live in a condo.

[tags]eye test, rebekah higgs, girlfriend du jour, carrie brownstein, mogwai, pixies, gouge away, toronto condos[/tags]

"Jesus Harold Christ on rubber crutches, Bobby!"

Once I finished my paper yesterday I actually had a little free time. Wasn’t quite sure what to do with that. We ended up watching Zodiac (imdb | rotten tomatoes). I really liked it; I have a thing for David Fincher films anyway, but this was really good work. Gripping, creepy, detailed, even funny in parts, and always interesting, despite the 2.5 hour running time. It was amazing how much like the 1960s/70s he made it feel. Highly recommended.


So, it looks like our condo repairs are very nearly done. Today they came in (without telling us) to repair the kitchen floor damaged in the toilet-flooding back in May, so they just have to fix the baseboards they tore up today. Still one or two things left like improperly mounted blinds — but at least we finally have our blinds — but they finally seem to be fixing everything. And all it took was pressure from Tarion: we followed the conciliation process because the condo hadn’t fixed most of the stuff on our 30-day list, which they seemed surprised by. I don’t know if I buy their excuses (“We thought all the problems in your unit had been addressed”; “We sent you a letter to confirm…didn’t you get it?”) but the alternative is that they vindictively blacklisted us because of how embarrassed they were by the gas leak fiasco. Hopefully it’s the former; I prefer to think that people aren’t that sinister.


Here’s an op-ed piece from Mogwai‘s Stuart Braithwaite on Radiohead‘s new business model. Especially delightful are the shots he takes at Madonna near the end.

“The braveness of [Radiohead’s] move was juxtaposed perfectly with the fact that last week Madonna signed her new record deal with Live Nation aka Clear Channel aka the bastards that got George W Bush elected. But since she speaks with a fake upper class English accent and kills animals for fun they frankly deserve each other.”

[tags]zodiac, david fincher, condo repairs, mogwai, radiohead, madonna[/tags]